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Published: Thursday, 12/19/2013

Ohio finds 17 illegal noncitizen voters

None are local; secretary of state refers cases to various county prosecutors

BY JIM PROVANCE BLADE
COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Seventeen non-U.S. citizens voted illegally during the 2012 election in Ohio and 274 more are on the state’s registration rolls, Secretary of State Jon Husted said Wednesday.

He has referred the 17 cases of alleged illegal voting to prosecutors in the counties where the votes were cast. Voting fraud is a felony.

None of the votes were cast in northwest Ohio. But his unprecedented review revealed 15 Lucas County residents were among the 274 noncitizens statewide who were found in the voter registration database but who have never cast a ballot. Two more were found in Hancock County and one in Wood.

Notifications were sent to those people found to be improperly registered, in part to see if they have since become citizens. Although falsely attesting on registration forms to being a citizen can also be a crime, Mr. Husted said he is not referring those cases for possible prosecution.

“From the evidence that we have, the facts are a little different in every case,” he said.

One noncitizen who has voted in Ohio has been doing so since 1993, Mr. Husted said. His office did not identify those referred for possible prosecution.

“I want to be clear,” he said. “The people in question are not in Ohio illegally. They are documented immigrants who are not citizens. However, as such, they are not eligible to vote. None of the cases involved illegal or undocumented immigrants, and we have no evidence of an illegal or undocumented immigrant voting in any election.”

The state’s new practice of cross-referencing voter registration data with state driver’s license data enabled Mr. Husted to flag registered voters whose noncitizen status is recorded with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“We must continue to modernize to prevent these situations from happening,” Mr. Husted. “It undermines confidence in our system of elections and is a violation of the law.”

But he also said his review demonstrates that the problem is rare.

“Once again, Secretary Husted has revealed how rare of a problem so-called voter fraud is in Ohio compared with the real problems in our elections,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D., Kent). “Thirteen months after the November, 2012, election, the secretary is focused on 0.0003 percent of the 5.63 million votes cast. In that same election, over 47,000 voters had their ballots thrown out and over 3 million Ohioans did not participate in their election at all.”

One reform that the Republican secretary of state has sought but that lawmakers have so far declined to give him is authorization for Ohioans to register online. Voters can update their addresses and other information online, but they cannot initially register that way.

The online system, he said, requires a driver’s license number for identification and would automatically lead to a comparison to BMV data. That would prevent a non-U.S. citizen from registering. That information is not currently required when people register on paper.

He said the improper registrations did not appear to be part of an orchestrated effort. They were registered with both major parties and were spread across the state, although the largest concentrations were in the most populated counties.

Gov. John Kasich is expected to soon sign the recently passed Senate Bill 200, which authorizes the secretary of state to use driver’s license, death certificate, national databases, and other information to cross-check with data in the registration rolls.

Mr. Husted said the bill would simply codify practices his office is now doing.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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