The ERIC exit and election integrity news from Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State

8 months ago

Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State and former Green Beret, is passionate about election integrity. His concerns with the ERIC voter database ultimately led to Ohio cutting ties ERIC, and now he's on the path to increase election transparency and restore voter confidence. Watch to learn more about Ohio's ERIC experience and the state's plan for election integrity going forward.

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Gerald Ewalt: Welcome to the First Right Podcast, a weekly conservative new show brought to you by Restoration America. I'm your host Jerry Ewalt, chief Marketing Officer for Restoration America, and today we are blessed to speak to Ohio's Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, a former Green Beret and Bronze Star recipient. He's in the middle of a lot of election integrity news, and we want to catch up with him and get his perspective directly. Well, Frank, thanks for joining us today.

Frank LaRose: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the chance to join you.

Gerald Ewalt: Well, I, I also want to thank you for your service, but also for your continuous service for the country and especially for Ohio.

Frank LaRose: I'll tell you what, I enjoy serving as a reservist and those weekends when I get to be Sergeant LaRose instead of Secretary LaRose are ones I look forward to.

Gerald Ewalt: I bet, I bet prepares you for the job that you're currently in and any future job that'll come as well, you

Frank LaRose: Know, in more ways than, than, you know, and I, I, I've, I've often shared my military wisdom, if you will, with our team here at the Secretary of State's office. I think maybe sometimes they roll their eyes when I start telling army stories, but I do think that the lessons of leadership that I've learned in, in the military do translate well to what I do now in public service.

Gerald Ewalt: It, it can definitely give you thick skin based on some of the attacks that you and Ohio's been receiving as of late. So I, I imagine it serves you well, especially in that area.

Frank LaRose: Absolutely. Stay focused on the mission, and of course there's always gonna be detractors, but if we're working every day to accomplish our mission, which of course in this job is free and fair elections and ones that are trustworthy that everybody knows, are honest, well then I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna worry about the haters.

Gerald Ewalt: I I love that. I I absolutely love that. So let's jump into election integrity, because that is the hot topic. It's been for years now, and you've done a lot in Ohio to, to really enhance what we would say election integrity. Could you, can you talk a little bit about that?

Frank LaRose: Yeah. First of all, it starts from a firm foundation. Ohio for 20 years has been in the national spotlight. And so we've gotten used to having folks watching when we conduct our elections. As a result of that, we've gotten good at what we do. We deliver those results on election night. It continues to be astonishing to me that states make these big mistakes of dribbling out results on Tuesday night, but then again on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. All that does is, is cause people concern and, and really leads to, to people doubting the election. We remove dead people from the voter rolls. I don't think that should be controversial. We maintain the accuracy of our roles, and it's something that we do on a day-to-day basis. We have bipartisan oversight where everything at a board of elections is both Democrats and Republicans working together.
We have voting machines that are never connected to the internet. We would never consider allowing a voting machine in Ohio that connects to the internet. And we have a paper backup. 100% of our ballots in Ohio are on paper. Of course, we tabulate them through a machine on election night. So we can give you those rapid results. But then we go back three weeks later and we count the hard copy paper. We call that a post-election audit, not just for presidential elections, but for every single election. And when we've done those post-election audits during my administration, we found an accuracy rate over 99%. In fact, in 2020 in the presidential election, it was 99.98%. And in 2022, in our most recent gubernatorial election, there was a 22, or sorry, 99.9% accuracy rate in that 2022 race. So Ohioans know they can trust their results, and by the way, in those rare instances where people do commit voter fraud, we hold them accountable. I have referred over 630 individuals to law enforcement that we have caught in, in, in what we suspect is voter fraud. And, and again, in many cases they have faced justice for doing that.

Gerald Ewalt: You would think this is common sense like this is, this is something you would expect that Yeah, of course. My state has 99.9% accuracy. Of course, my state will prosecute people who are committing voter fraud, but that's not the case across the country. So you, you could, you could say that Ohio is maybe rare situation here of being one of the states that actually does that. So kudos to you and everything that you've done to be able to, to enforce that.

Frank LaRose: Well, thank you. And some of the, the, the most shameful things that happen in other states are the result of inaction, simply being asleep at the switch. But then also in some ways, what other states have gotten wrong is settling these activist lawsuits that show up in Ohio. We fight them in the month of September alone in 2020. I was sued five different times by left-leaning groups that wanted to change the rules at the last minute. We didn't settle those lawsuits. We fought those lawsuits because first of all, settling those lawsuits allows last minute changes that can lead to fraud or at least confusion by our elections officials or voters. But the second reason why you should never settle those lawsuits is it's like paying the hostage takers ransom. You don't need to be an expert at this to understand that when you pay the hostage takers, they only take more hostages. And so if you give the ACLU 30% of what they're asking for this year, what do you think they're gonna do next year? They're gonna come back and try to get another 30 or another 30 the year after that.

Gerald Ewalt: That's right. You gotta, you gotta show strength and you've clearly done that. So we appreciate you doing that. Now one of the, the hot topics outside, well it it's part of election integrity that's been in the news recently is ERIC, right, which is the electronic Registration information center. And there's been a lot of discussion is ERIC is it' bad. There's been a big movement away from ERIC, especially in a lot of red states. Tell me about your experience with Eric.

Frank LaRose: Well, you know, there were things that we used it for, like any tool it can be, it can be used for, for good things. And we, we were using it to catch people that were voting in multiple states. We'd made several dozen referrals to law enforcement because of data that we received from ERIC that showed us that somebody voted in Ohio and also voted in another state. But there were also a lot of reasons to be concerned about ERIC. And so I had been working over the last year to try to reform this process to try to bring some accountability, both financial audits and data integrity audits to ERIC. I also worked to try to get ERIC to allow states to use the data as they see fit. ERIC had had this bias built into it for a long time, that if ERIC presented you with data that says, Hey, somebody in your state is eligible to be registered but not registered, the state was required to send them a mailing and saying, Hey, would you like to register to vote? But the, the, the program, ERIC, didn't have the same level of urgency as it related to information about voter fraud. So if a state had information that someone had been committing voter fraud, it was optional for the state to do something about it. That's a real inconsistency and a real problem. So we were trying to reform that and unfortunately in several meetings, those, the board members of ERIC fought back. And so I made the difficult but necessary decision to withdraw Ohio from ERIC recently joining many other states that have had the same concerns.

Gerald Ewalt: Well, well, Frank, when I hear you talk about ERIC, I I, your intention was not to leave ERIC necessarily. ERIC could be a good thing. You want, you were pushing for reform and it didn't happen.

Frank LaRose: That's it. No, I was trying to save it because again, having that ability to cross-check data with other states to find out if somebody voted in my state and in another state so that I can refer them for prosecution, that's a valuable tool. And unfortunately, ERIC refused our efforts to reform. And so we had no choice but to pull out of it because again, my first responsibility is to protect the taxpayers of Ohio and for us to continue to pay dues to this organization that refuses accountability is just something that we couldn't stomach. But yeah, I tried to save it before leaving it. And how unfortunately with ERIC crumbling, something is gonna have to be built to replace it because states will need the ability to compare data to make sure that somebody's not voting in multiple states in the same election.

Gerald Ewalt: How did they respond? I mean, because again, I I can see your, your desire to stick with it and fix it, it's a needed service. How did they respond when you pushed back on some of the reforms?

Frank LaRose: Abstinence, stubbornness and ultimately a real defensiveness even resorting to lies about our motives and intentions. They unleashed some of their leftist buddies to go out on social media and say that we were succumbing to conspiracy theories and whatever else. I've always been clear that there are plenty of things bloggers say or whatever else. That's not what we were concerned about with Eric. My concern was lack of accountability and the fact that they wouldn't do financial audits. They wouldn't do data integrity audits and they wouldn't allow states to use the ERIC data in the way that they see fit. As, you know, 50 different states run elections. That's not a glitch. That's a feature the way that American states run elections. And really, it's even more granular than that because in Ohio, I don't run the state's elections in the sense that on election day it's done by 88 county boards of elections. So it's really locally controlled. For some group like ERIC to tell states how they must use that data is, is wholly inappropriate. And the fact that they weren't willing to accept that reform, I think tells you something about their motives.

Gerald Ewalt: Well, not only do they not accept it, but if you go to the, you go to their website, you'll see that they're clearly calling all this misinformation. This isn't true. We don't know why states are withdrawing. It doesn't make sense. Right?

Frank LaRose: Yeah. They're resorting to their own misinformation. Again, they're claiming that we've succumbeded to some conspiracy theory about ERIC, and I've rejected a lot of that stuff that people have made up about ERIC and who funded it and whatev, but you know, my point has been they have not accepted accountability and they've refused to let states use the data in the way that we see fit.

Gerald Ewalt: Yeah. And and you're not the only state that's pulled out of ERIC. There's a, there's a, a number of states pulling out right now as we speak.

Frank LaRose: Absolutely. In fact, just last week it was Ohio and Iowa who both pulled out of ERIC, Florida has, I know the state of Alabama has, the state of Louisiana has, and I think several others are looking at it as well.

Gerald Ewalt: So you, you do see more states following Ohio and these other states pulling out of ERIC at some point?

Frank LaRose: Absolutely. It's like when you pull the, the thread and the sweater unravels. That's what's happening with ERIC because yeah, the fewer states that are participating, the less useful that database is. It is from its very beginning a database of state data. And so when fewer states are participating, that database becomes less valuable. What I've already started, in fact, I was on the phone, my team was with the Texas Elections Administrators just yesterday talking to them about we need to build something new to replace ERIC. So that states do have a trusted way of verifying data because again, I wanna make sure that if somebody votes in, in the election in Ohio, that they're not also simultaneously trying to vote in another state. I believe that happens very rarely, but we've caught it on the order of dozens of times a year. And so we want people to know that if they try to conduct that kind of criminal behavior, that we will catch you and you will face justice for rebuilding something to replace. Eric is now at the top of my priority list.

Gerald Ewalt: So we're, we're seeing a lot of these red states move. Do, do you see any blue, blue leaning states kind of joining this? Because this shouldn't just be a red versus blue initiative. This should be about election integrity. Do we see any blue states considering a move as well?

Frank LaRose: You know, unfortunately, no. This has become a cause on the left and for some reason they've got this like dogged, almost religious belief that staying in ERIC is, is something they need to do. It's unfortunate because if they actually look at the facts here, if they look at the logical arguments that we've laid out, this organization either needs to reform or it needs to go away. And we've been trying for over a year to reform it. I've seen enough, I've recognized that it's not going to reform and that's why I've pulled my state out. I, as I've been saying for a long time, it was worth saving, but not at any cost. Yeah. And we, us is not too high and so we, we've withdrawn.

Gerald Ewalt: Well, I I appreciate that you, you try to reform it from within. I think that makes a lot of sense. And it's unfortunate this is a nonpartisan issue. It'd be great to see more states, not just red states pulling out of this and kind of uni in unison for what's best of the country.

Frank LaRose: Absolutely.

Gerald Ewalt: So the other thing we're seeing with ERIC, unfortunately, so it it kind of, it continues, it's not just the reforms that you were asking. We, we are also seeing that it's, it has aligned or at least shared some data with some left wing organizations like, like c what is it, CEIR center for Election Innovation and Research. Have you encountered any of this stuff as well? Or were you seeing this, is this something that was happening in Ohio?

Frank LaRose: Well, so this was one of the concerns that we had, and by the way, this is one success that we had in trying to reform this, is to get these ex officio board members off of the board of ERIC. We've been saying that this organization has now existed for a decade, that the states that pay the dues into it should be the only members of the board. But up until a few months ago, really a few weeks ago, there were two board members that were ex officio board members. One of them is directly involved with that organization's CEIR This is an individual who is a recognized election expert, but has also become a really harsh partisan in his public pronouncements in going around the country trying to sell a book for his own profit. And listen, I'm a capitalist. I don't have any problem with that. But if you're gonna go around the country trying to sell a book and you're trashing people from my party in the process, then you don't belong on the board of, of, of ERIC.

Gerald Ewalt: Where do you see this, this heading? Do, do you see this, you, you are getting so many attacks from the, the liberal media at this point. It must mean you're over the target, but how do you see momentum building on this and, and getting better? How, how are you handling it?

Frank LaRose: You use one of my favorite analogies, even though I'm an Army Green Beret, I can use an old Air Force saying, and that is that congratulations if you're taking flack, because that must mean that you're over the target. And you're right. The fact that the left has circled the wagons and started to, to raise so much heck about, about state leaving, ERIC tells me that there may be something more than meets the eye. What we wanna do is replace it. That's why I've started having conversations with secretaries of state and other state. In fact, in other states, in just over the last couple days, I've talked with well over a dozen different secretaries of state from around the country. And I, what I'd like to see is a truly nonpartisan effort come together where we can simply share election data. We can use that data to draw out information that we need in order to do what we think is best for our state.
And whether that means helping people get registered to vote. Listen, I, I'd be the first to tell you that I think increasing voter registration is a good thing in Ohio, we've had massive turnout and massive participation in people from my party have done very well in that scenario. So I'm not against helping people get registered to vote, but at the same time, I also wanna fight crime and make sure that if people are trying to break the law, that we can catch them using that data that we have available and refer them for law enforcement action. We need to rebuild something new to replace ERIC. That'll allow us to truly do that.

Gerald Ewalt: Well, that Frank, that's really encouraging. I mean, we love hearing this stuff and we, we love hearing officials like you come out and boldly talk about what's been happening at what needs to be done. What, what else on the horizon do you see for election integrity that needs to happen to restore confidence?

Frank LaRose: Well, there's something I'm really excited about, and we call it in Ohio, the data act. This is something that we're working with a group of people from around the country to accomplish that would help us be more transparent in election data. Now think about this. If you were investing your retirement savings, you would wanna look at the financial statements of different companies. You'd want to compare their balance sheets. And because of the way the American financial system works, you know that you can look at financials from different companies and make an apples to apples comparison because companies have to use generally accepted accounting principles follow standard charts of account. And so you can actually make that apples to apples comparison. Nothing like that exists in the election space. And so the way that one county collects and reports data may be completely different from the way another county collects and reports data.
Our bill, senate bill 71 in Ohio is going to be the first in the nation that standardizes those definitions and then requires them to be rapidly reported right there on a website. So we can kind of crowdsource this, anybody that wants to, can look at our balance sheet, for example, to make sure, does the number of voters who showed up at the polling location match the number of bo of ballots that were actually cast at that polling location? Of course, those two should balance out, right? But, you know, being able to report that data has been a challenge. We're working with a group called America First Policy Institute that's looking into that and trying to find ways that we can do it better. I think once Ohio passes this, it will become a model that other states around the country are going to wanna follow. In fact, I'm already getting calls from secretaries of state in other states saying, tell me about this data transparency act that you're working on. I think it really could be revolutionary. It sounds a little bit nerdy, but election data really matters.

Gerald Ewalt: So you so using gap principles, right, and, and applying that to the election process and how we do it, I think that's a fantastic idea.

Frank LaRose: That's it, exactly. The care that we take with our money should be be similar to the care that we take with our, with our votes. If you asked your, your bank, for example, to show you the, the, the balance sheets to show you where your money was in your account, you would wanna be able to look at that. You wouldn't want them to say, no, it's, it is fine. There's nothing to see here. Well, we want the Board of elections to work as transparently as your bank would work. You want to be able to look at that and know that your one vote was, was, was cast and your one vote was counted. And that the same for everybody else who participated in that election.

Gerald Ewalt: It's so simple. I love it. Frank, thank you so much for coming on. I, I love your boldness. I pray that you, you continue fighting and just we, we'll keep following you. So thank you.

Frank LaRose: Awesome. Thank you so much. Take care.

Gerald Ewalt: All right. Well that's our show for today. Thank you so much for tuning in and supporting conservative media. Don't ever forget that by working together and staying diligent, we conservatives can bring our country back to true greatness. Until next week, let's all keep praying that God will continue to bless America

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