The campaign to fill the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, in the 12th Congressional District, was ferocious and ended in an excruciatingly close election. Final results are still not known.
And because the race was close and hard fought, some supporters of both Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson have continued the battle long after the polls closed.
Rumors have circulated that dozens of votes were cast by voters who are too old to be alive, much less to be voting. Some theories focused on a batch of once-missing and then rediscovered votes, which some critics believe are illegitimate and created to sway the election.
Conspiracy theories about the ballot counting may be inevitable when elections are close. But we live in a politically paranoid time.
The rumors and conspiracies reached a fevered pitch that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was forced to step forward to refute them: “Those who want to engage in spreading a blatantly false narrative wholly detached from reality should find better ways to spend their time,”
That’s fair enough, but probably not sufficient to soften paranoia or stop the rumors.
Unfortunately, attempts from Russian operatives to interfere in American elections and unforced errors by elections officials, in many states, have made voters even more suspicious than they might already be. Many Americans seriously believe the Russians changed the course of the last presidential election.
So we have a crisis of democratic faith.
Nothing is more important than faith in the integrity of our electoral system, and in our election mechanisms. Without that faith, democracy is compromised and conspiracy theories grow.
Americans have to believe their elections, and election counts, are clean and legitimate. And that means election officials, and politicians running for office, have to take extra steps to make sure they truly are.
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