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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: LaRose praises Trump for proposing a law that already exists

frank larose, in a camel jacket, white tie and red, white and blue plaid patterned tie greets donald trump, seen from behind, in a black coat
Jacquelyn Martin
President Donald Trump greets Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Jan. 9, 2020, as he arrives at Toledo Express Airport, in Swanton, Ohio.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose spent most of last year trying to cozy up to Donald Trump in hopes of getting the ex-president's endorsement in the March GOP Senate primary.

He didn't — Bernie Moreno did — and LaRose finished at the bottom of a three-candidate field.

But old habits are hard to break and LaRose is back at it, currying favor with Trump by signing on to an "election integrity plan" Trump unveiled with House Speaker Mike Johnson last week.

Trump and Johnson rolling out an "election integrity plan" at Mar-a-Lago three days before Trump's first criminal trial in New York was widely seen as a ploy to lay the groundwork for Trump to claim that the November election was stolen from him, should he indeed by defeated by President Joe Biden this fall.

The script for that claim is easy to predict: Crooked Joe Biden stole this election from me. He opened the borders to illegal immigrants who came here to vote for him.

Trump has been saying it over and over again, without a scintilla of evidence. And he will keep saying it in order to erode voters' confidence in a fair and impartial election system.

ANALYSIS: Bernie Moreno's win is good news for Trump and Ohio Democrats

As Ohio's chief elections officer, LaRose knows better than anyone that non-citizens casting ballots in elections is exceedingly rare.

A 2023 Ohio Capital Journal survey of 521 criminal referrals of non-citizens filed by LaRose's office during his time as secretary of state showed only one case where a non-citizen was charged with voter fraud.

One of 521.

Many non-citizens are on the path to citizenship, but let's say you are an undocumented immigrant who is not in the U.S. legally and you have shown no interest in becoming a legal citizen, with the right to vote.

You will want to keep yourself off the radar of the government.

Why, then, would you show up at a polling place on Election Day and try to vote — an act that leaves behind a record?

Which may help explain why LaRose nabs only one out of 521 suspects.

"If you are here illegally, you are going to do everything possible to avoid the government," said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, one of the state's leading voter rights groups.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump and Johnson proposed new legislation to restrict non-citizen voting — the centerpiece of which was requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and cast a ballot.

Johnson claimed that large numbers of immigrants are entering the U.S. illegally and being registered to vote. He did not offer a shred of evidence for this claim.

In essence, Trump and Johnson were calling on Congress to declare non-citizen voting illegal.

The problem with that argument is that it is already illegal.

RELATED: LaRose warns Biden could be kept off Ohio's November ballot because of a conflict in state law

States have been passing such laws for over a century; and Congress passed a federal law in 1996. Ohio voters followed suit in 2022.

"I suppose they figure that if something is already illegal, what's the harm in making it really, really illegal?" Turcer said. "But what's the point? It is incredibly rare and is already illegal."

Nonetheless, LaRose wasted no time in joining the Trump-Johnson bandwagon, putting out a press release within 24 hours praising the effort and urging "my colleagues in other states and Congress to support the important legislation the President and Speaker outlined yesterday."

"Election integrity is vital to not only ensuring an accurate and honest process, but also increasing public trust in our elections," LaRose said in the release. "Ohio leads the nation on many of the goals outlined, including our work to ensure only citizens may vote."

WVXU's requests for more specific comments from LaRose on why he favors what Trump and Johnson proposed went unanswered.

Turcer said there are things worthy of praise about Ohio's election system under LaRose.

"He can be proud of the bipartisan administration of elections, the rotating ballots that help level the playing field for candidates," Turcer said.

But, she said, LaRose has also withdrawn Ohio from participation in ERIC (Election Registration Information Center), a multistate database created 12 years ago to make it easier for states to share voter registration information and spot potential fraud before it happens.

RELATED: Ohio's voter ID laws have changed. Here's what you need to vote

Many conservatives don't like ERIC because it requires that states send voter registration information to their residents.

"And now (LaRose) is signing on to a plan to make something illegal that is already illegal and almost never happens," Turcer said. "It makes no sense."

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.