WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Ohio Republicans introduced Senate Bill 51, a bill that would create an election integrity division within the secretary of state’s office. Under this bill, the new division would be responsible for investigating allegations of election fraud and voter suppression, both on its own initiative and based on complaints from the public. The division would also be able to refer complaints to law enforcement for further investigation and prosecution. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) previously announced a division to investigate elections last year; S.B. 51 would codify such a division into state law.
The proposed bill mirrors similar moves in other Republican-controlled states. Georgia enacted a law last year empowering the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate election-related crimes and Texas Republicans introduced a series of bills in January creating new election crime investigators. Most notably, Florida, at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), created a special force to investigate elections, which subsequently arrested 20 individuals for voter fraud, and the Florida Legislature recently passed a law to enhance prosecutions brought by that force. Rather than uncover fraud, these investigations are more likely to harass and intimidate voters.