County’s registration oddity fires up conspiracy theorists

The theory, floated on blogs and on right-wing websites, spurred its own online petition on Obama’s “We the People” site, which allows people to petition the White House.

The petition, which urges the administration to “recount the election,” argues that it should do so because “it has become blatantly obvious the voter fraud that was committed during the 2012 Presidential elections.

“In one county alone in Ohio, which was a battleground state, President Obama received 106,258 votes…but there were only 98,213 eligible voters. It’s not humanly possible to get 108% of the vote,” the petition reads.

That same nugget has been repeated elsewhere, with the county identified as Wood County.

But according to unofficial results on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, 61,967 Wood County voters voted on Nov. 6 — and 28,997 of them voted for Republican Mitt Romney. Obama garnered 31,596 votes in that county, according to the site. The Secretary of State’s site reports that a total of 104,461 are registered to vote in that county.

That’s where there is some peculiarity.

According to the 2011 Census, Wood County has a population of 126,355. An estimated 21 percent are under the age of 18 and unable to vote. That means approximately 100,000 Wood County residents should be of voting age.

So how can more than 104,000 be registered to vote?

Elections officials have an explanation. Wood County is the home of Bowling Green State University, which has an enrollment of more than 20,000. When those students graduate or leave school, many don’t cancel their voter registration, which leaves the Wood County Board of Elections facing a bit of a conundrum: How can you tell when a voter is no longer a voter?

According to Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections, the board’s policy has been this: Wait two election cycles, then try to contact the voter and see if they still live in the county. Many times, the board sends letters that bounce back. When that happens, the board’s policy, guided by federal law, has been to wait two more federal election cycles before kicking voters off the rolls.

That means the then-students who voted for John Kerry and George W. Bush back in 2004 might still be registered to vote in Wood County, even though they left there years ago.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, said Wood County — as well as all other Ohio counties — are guided by federal laws that outline a process to remove inactive voters from the rolls, a process that can take several election cycles.

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