Secretary of State Jon Husted referred 17 cases of non-U.S. citizens illegally voting in Ohio — including two in Montgomery County and one in Butler County — to the state attorney general for further investigation.
Husted’s office compared state voting records to records from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and found nearly 300 instances of documented noncitizens living in Ohio and registered to vote in 2012. Only U.S. citizens are legally allowed to vote in federal and Ohio elections, and voters must indicate they are legal citizens when they register to vote.
The state does not keep a database of legal non-citizens, but the BMV has some information from non-citizens who apply for driver’s licenses. State officials searched both databases for registered voters who submitted paperwork to the BMV. The investigation found 274 people had registered to vote while categorized as non-citizens but never cast a ballot and 17 non-citizens who registered and voted at least once since 2006.
The non-citizens were spread across the state, including three Miami Valley counties: Montgomery (17 registered and two voted), Butler (9 registered and one voted) and Warren (six registered).
“It exists, it’s rare, violators will be held accountable and we are building a better election system to make sure this never happens,” Husted told reporters Wednesday.
The number of voters flagged is less than 3 one-thousandths of one percent of the 5.6 million votes cast in the November 2012 election. Earlier this year, Husted reported 135 potential voter-fraud cases to law enforcement for futher investigation; of those, 19 cases were then turned over to county prosecutors.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, said Husted’s focus on such a small problem ignores larger problems with Ohio’s voting system.
“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,” Clyde said in a statement. “When will the secretary hold a press conference on this much larger number of voters and the real problems in Ohio elections?”
Husted said the situation could have been prevented if each had registered online. Two bills are pending in the Ohio General Assembly that would allow Ohioans to register to vote online by entering their driver’s license number.
Husted said that information would then go to the BMV for verification, and non-citizen applicants would be flagged and checked before being registered.
“We must continue to modernize to prevent these situations from happening again,” Husted said. “It undermines confidence in our system of elections and is a violation of the law.”
Husted said there is no evidence of illegal non-citizens registering or voting in Ohio elections. Husted said he’d been asked many times how many non-citizens vote, and a recent partnership with the BMV allows him to partially answer that question.
The 274 people who registered but did not vote will be notified so they can rectify the situation by either cancelling their registration or providing documentation showing they have since become a resident.