Voting myths and legends


Allegations of voter fraud and vote suppression are common, especially among Ohio lawmakers who would use the former to justify the latter. Actual instances of attempts to tamper with voting are rare. A recent directive by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is a welcome effort to separate fact from fiction.

Unsubstantiated claims of vote rigging can take on a life of their own. The Internet helps to turn rumor into fact through repetition. A post-election email that went viral is a case in point.

One version of the anonymous email claimed that last November, in 21 Wood County districts Republican voting inspectors were illegally removed and President Obama won 100 percent of the votes. The writer also said that more than 106,000 votes were cast in Wood County, even though the county had only 98,213 registered voters.

None of it’s true, as a check of the Wood County Board of Elections or Ohio Secretary of State Web sites makes clear. Mr. Obama won a little more than 51 percent of the 63,948 votes cast for president in Wood County. He didn’t win all of the vote in any district.

This month, Mr. Husted directed local election officials to hold a public hearing to examine every complaint of voter fraud or suppression “supported by factual evidence,” at which testimony would be given under oath and limited to firsthand knowledge. Those who claim voter fraud will have to put up or shut up.

The secretary’s main concern, he told the Ohio Association of Election Officials, was that “myths and rumors left unchallenged become conventional wisdom.” The directive also will enable the state to collect data about actual attempts to vote illegally or to keep eligible voters from casting their ballots.

In his address to the election officials, Mr. Husted noted several election-law reforms that he supports. They include online voter registration, online absentee-ballot requests, uniform voting days and hours, and changes to provisional ballots. Notable by their absence were voter fraud and vote suppression.

Yet GOP leaders in the General Assembly continue to push the need to address voter fraud. And Democrats counter with measures to combat voter suppression. Both should see whether local boards of election uncover myths and rumors, or genuine problems.