COLUMBUS — A first-of-its-kind statewide review found instances of voter fraud in Ohio during last year’s presidential election but not rampant abuses, the elections chief in the battleground state said Thursday.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said the investigation he ordered in January by Ohio’s 88 county election boards resulted in 135 substantiated cases being referred to law enforcement for further investigation out of 625 reported cases of voting irregularities.
That included 20 individuals Husted was referring to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday who appear to have registered and cast ballots in both Ohio and another state.
They included a man who voted in person in both Ohio and Kentucky on Election Day and a woman who cast an absentee ballot in Virginia then voted in person in Ohio.
“Voter fraud does exist, but it’s not an epidemic,” Husted said.
While noting that fraud cases represented a tiny fraction of the 5.6 million Ohio votes cast last year, Husted said he wanted to send a message that even one instance of fraud is unacceptable.
“If you cheat, you will get caught and we will hold you accountable,” he said. “To the vast majority of voters who did it the right way in the state of Ohio — and I say the vast majority of voters — your vote will not be diluted by the people who have cheated.”
Most of the 135 cases were caught before fraudulent votes were counted, Husted said. Fraud was detected through cross-checks with voter records in 21 other states working to protect election integrity, he said.
Husted said boards of elections were also instructed to look for voter suppression, but no cases were documented of voters being denied ballots and no referrals were made — a finding questioned by Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent.
She said she knew of at least 52 voters whose ballots weren’t counted in Tuscarawas County alone “and I can direct him to voters’ sworn testimony to prove it.”
Clyde said she was pleased overall that Husted’s review found the system works.
“I hope this process shows the secretary’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature that there is no need to revive the Photo ID bill that died last General Assembly,” she said. “I also hope the secretary’s office will turn its attention to investigating real problems such as the 208,000 provisional ballots cast in 2012, the 34,000 rejected provisional ballots in 2012, and the ongoing problems complying with the federal Motor Voter law.”
Husted said he hoped the review would provide facts to counter “a lot of pre-election hyperbole” Ohio voters face each election season, including allegations of systematic scheming by voter groups and political campaigns, students, illegal aliens and others.
“In the aftermath of the election, time after time when things calm down, these issues go away, and then no one revisits them again until the next major election,” he said. “What I wanted to do in the aftermath of the election was to get the facts.”
Husted said he anticipated different political factions would interpret the findings in different ways — describing the policy issue as “finding the correct balance between access and accuracy.”
He said it looks to him as if Ohio has struck a good balance.
Substantiated fraud involved double voting, voting for other people — including those who had died, and voting from an address from which the voter wasn’t eligible.
Husted said Photo ID “wouldn’t have mattered in most of these cases” but he would use the experience to lobby for more technological advancements in the area of voter tracking. More than half of states are not part of the Interstate Crosscheck Program through which duplicate votes and registrations were found.
Husted said he was ordering a further review Thursday of voters registered to a U.S. Postal Service or commercial mailbox storefront address. Under Ohio law, a voter can receive mail at such an address but must list a residence for voting purposes.