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Casting Votes For Trump, Ohio Electors Refuse To Acknowledge Biden's Victory

Signs and flags at the pro-Trump rally at the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday, November 7, 2020.
Nick Evans
/
WOSU

Ohio's 18 electors were pledged to Donald Trump on Monday in a process prescribed by law and with lots of formality, but little suspense. At the same time, a majority of Electoral College voters across the country cemented the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

When Ohio campaign adviser Bob Paduchik, chair of the state’s 55th electoral college, announced the unanimous vote to the electors and observers in the Ohio Senate chambers – all of whom wore masks and were seated far apart – it was not a shock.

Trump won Ohio by a little over 8 points. The pandemic and record turnout made this election challenging for elections officials, poll workers and voters, said Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“Working together, we were able to accomplish something that many thought was impossible – the most difficult election of our lifetime," LaRose said. "It’s not hyperbole to say the 2020 was perhaps the most difficult election ever conducted in the state of Ohio."

Though Trump got over 313,000 more votes this year in Ohio than in 2016, his statewide total was just under his margin of victory from four years ago – because more than 5.9 million Ohioans cast ballots, the highest in state history.

The election in Ohio was never disputed by Trump, although Ohio is among several states that used machines from Dominion Voting Systems. Baseless accusations of vote-switching on those machines have been rejected by courts, and Dominion notes on its website that those claims “have been debunked by election officials, subject matter experts and third-party fact checkers.”

Likewise, while Ohio's 18 electors didn't question the results of this state's vote, they did raise baseless concerns about the election in other states. Some states have seen threats of violence, with Michigan and Arizona being forced to hold their electoral college votes in secure locations because of safety fears.

Allen County Republican Party chair Keith Cheney, an elector from Lima, had this to say after the vote: "The bottom line is, I’m here as an elector in the state of Ohio. We did our job. We voted for the president of the United States, and I’m proud to sign those certificates today.”

Two electors who had been selected by the Ohio Republican Party in September weren’t at this session – Patricia Weber of Akron and Cleveland pastor Darrell Scott.

Lee Ann Johnson, chair of Ohio Women for Trump and the wife of Rep. Bill Johnson, was picked to fill in for Weber.

“I do have questions about it nationwide," Johnson said. "There are still cases pending in court, and we just have to see what that outcome will be."

There have been nearly 60 challenges to the election filed in courts in nine states by the Trump legal team. They’ve lost all but one of them, and some of the cases have been dismissed with prejudice and pointed words from judges.

Elector and Columbiana County Republican Party chair Dave Johnson also says he’s concerned about what he calls “irregularities." However, all 50 states have certified their results and declared Biden the winner – a result that Johnson refuses to accept.

“I don’t. I personally don’t," he said. "I have great reservations and I think there needs to be a major bipartisan investigation as to what happened.”

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court – including the three justices nominated by Trump – rejected a bid by Texas to toss out the results of the votes in four states Biden won. That lawsuit was backed by 126 of the 196 Republicans in the U.S. House, including five Congressmen from Ohio: Reps. Jim Jordan (4th District), Bill Johnson (6th District), Brad Wenstrup (2nd District), Bob Latta (5th District) and Bob Gibbs (7th District).

The electoral college vote isn’t the final step. The U.S. Congress will vote to accept the Electoral College votes on January 6.

So far, of Ohio’s 13 Republican members of Congress, only two – Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River) – have acknowledged Biden as the president-elect.

Sen. Rob Portman has been cagey, writing in a Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed that there’s no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities and that Biden has “enough electoral votes to win," but stopping short of congratulating him or calling him the president-elect.

But a few hours after the Electoral College votes were in, Portman put out a statement: "The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy, and although I supported President Trump, the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect.”