- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 18, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Nonpartisan voting rights groups in Ohio are joining the state’s Republican elections chief in pushing back against suggestions by the Trump campaign that the state’s election could be compromised.

In a conference call Tuesday, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, America Votes and other advocates sought to reassure Ohioans the presidential battleground state’s voting system is secure.

They encouraged people to call an election protection hotline - 866-OUR-VOTE - on Election Day if they encounter problems. The line is staffed by trained volunteers and co-sponsored by a national lawyers’ group that helps assure election integrity. Separate hotlines also are available for Spanish speakers and speakers of Asian languages.

The reassurances follow vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s remarks during a campaign swing through Ohio on Monday urging supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to take steps to “respectfully participate” at the polls “to ensure the integrity of the election.”

On Tuesday in North Carolina, Pence struggled to defend Trump’s repeated assertions the Nov. 8 election will be “rigged,” arguing there have been “proven instances of fraud” in recent decades. Investigations, including by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, have found instances of fraud to be very limited.

Husted has reiterated this week that he’s confident Ohio’s electoral process is secure.

He has been commenting regularly on the situation since late last month, when the director of the FBI told Congress of “attempted intrusions” into voter registration databases around the country and said the agency is looking “very, very hard” at Russian hackers who may try to disrupt the U.S. election.

Husted and the voter advocates emphasize that Ohio’s voting machines are not connected to the internet.

Carrie Davis, of the League of Women Voters, said votes are also protected in other ways. She said each vote in Ohio produces a paper backup that can be double-checked by the voter; the order candidates are listed on ballots rotates to make rigging harder; tabulations are cross-checked by hand, then audited; and Ohio’s election administration is decentralized and bipartisan.

“We have a very clear message to voters: Don’t allow the naysayers to undermine your faith in democracy,” Davis said.

Catherine Turcer, of Common Cause Ohio, said the system is set up to prevent partisan tampering.

“It’s a kind of a Noah’s Ark system. Everybody goes two-by-two,” said Turcer. “Republicans are watching Democrats, and Democrats are watching Republicans.”

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