A first-time tally of voter fraud across Ohio found 135 cases referred for criminal investigation following the 2012 presidential election, including 20 people who state officials say voted in Ohio and another state.
The report, released Thursday by the Ohio Secretary of State, listed 22 referrals to law enforcement from southwest Ohio, including nine cases of alleged multi-state voting.
“This report demonstrates that voter fraud does exist; but it is not an epidemic,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement.
More than 5.6 million ballots were cast in Ohio in last year’s election, the runup to which included concerns from the political right of voter fraud and a controversial proposal to require photo ID at the polls. Husted said requiring photo ID wouldn’t have made a difference in most of the discovered cases.
The election also featured concerns from the political left of voter suppression. Thursday’s report said counties reported that no voters were denied ballots and zero referrals have been made as a result of voters claiming suppression.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, issued a statement saying voters were indeed denied their vote and calling for Husted to investigate things such as why 34,000 provisional ballots were rejected in 2012.
Voter fraud watchdog group True the Vote, meanwhile, declined to comment for this story because it is suing Husted to pressure him to clean up voter registration lists the group alleges leaves the door open to fraud.
Local elections officials say more often than fraud, what they saw was confused voters who mailed in an absentee ballot then showed up to vote, or who moved and voted at their former polling place as well as at their new polling place.
“It’s not unusual for us to have a voter return an absentee ballot and return a ballot on Election Day,” said Butler County Board of Elections Director Jocelyn Bucaro. “It tends to happen with elderly voters who forget, or some voters just want to make sure their ballot is counted.”
Montgomery County turned three cases over for investigation, including a case involving a man who voted provisionally in Montgomery County after voting by regular ballot in Clark County, and another man who sent a request for an absentee ballot on behalf of his deceased father.
The state investigation also found two Montgomery County voters may have also voted in another state, along with four people in Butler County, two in Hamilton and one in Clermont.
Ohio League of Women Voters Executive Director Carrie Davis said the number of actual fraud convictions following Thursday’s report likely will be much smaller than the already small number of investigations.
“The big thing we can learn from this is just that it is not a rampant problem, which is good news and has got to be reassuring to Ohio voters,” she said. “The process worked.”
Boards of election investigate ballot box irregularities after every election and turn some findings over for prosecution, but this is the first time anyone has created a statewide look at their findings. There were 625 “irregularities” investigated last year statewide.
This also is the first year state officials used a free service called Interstate Cross Check to compare voter rolls from Ohio to other states and look for double voters.
Of the 20 found, state officials say 15 appear to have voted in both states and the other five are still being investigated. Eight people voted in Ohio and Florida, state officials said. All 20 were turned over to the Ohio Attorney General for investigation.
Voter fraud is a fifth degree felony under Ohio law.
“Our effort to look into irregularities and root out voter fraud sends a strong message that no amount of fraud is acceptable,” Husted said. “If you cheat, you will be caught and held accountable.”
Husted also issued a directive Thursday requiring all county boards of election to look for people using Post Office boxes or mailbox stores as their home address. Voters can get mail at such a place, but must list the actual place they live on voting rolls, he said.