BY PAULA BOLYARD DECEMBER 4, 2019
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced on Wednesday that an investigation by his office has uncovered hundreds of illegally registered non-citizen voters, 77 of whom cast ballots in the November 2018 election.
In a letter to Attorney Dave Yost on December 4, LaRose, a Republican, explained, "As a result of our review, my office has identified 277 individuals who registered to vote in Ohio and 77 individuals who cast a ballot in an Ohio election and who appear to be legally present, noncitizens."
The Secretary of State said the review "utilized a cross-matching of the voter rolls in the Statewide Voter Registration Database with the list of individuals who have Ohio driver licenses or state identification cards." He noted that while the state does not maintain a "comprehensive database" of non-citizens in Ohio, Bureau of Motor Vehicles records do indicate the citizenship status of individuals who apply for driver's licenses or state identification cards.
The 277 individuals who registered to vote and the 77 who cast a ballot "each provided the BMV with documentation identifying themselves as non-citizens on at least two occasions, once before their voter activity and once after," LaRose said.
It remains to be seen whether the attorney general, also a Republican, will charge and push for convictions for the individuals who committed voter fraud, but LaRose urged him to take action: "I’m confident that you will give this matter the seriousness that our representative democracy deserves by acting quickly to complete your investigations and pursuing prosecution as warranted."
While the number of fraudulent votes in this case is relatively small—77 votes out 4,496,834 ballots cast in November 2018 —the perpetrators should have the book thrown at them. Election fraud is serious business, and those trying to subvert our democratic system deserve to be punished.
Not surprisingly, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which has a long history of criticizing efforts to crack down on illegal voting, gave cover to the fraudsters, saying that non-citizens who register to vote "do so mistakenly, not understanding the laws around voting," according to "elections officials and activists."
Voting-rights activists continue to insist that voter fraud is rare. “For the most part, fraud is just very, very rare,” Mike Brickner, Ohio director of a voting-rights nonprofit, told the Plain Dealer. “These cases oftentimes boil down to people didn’t understand the rules and were confused.”
LaRose seems to agree. “Thanks to the controls and processes of our election system, both voter fraud and voter suppression are exceedingly rare and certainly not as systemic as some claim,” he said in a statement. “However, neither are ever acceptable -- even in rare or isolated instances. The only way to continue this high standard is by committing to enforce the law when it is broken.”
While I give LaRose credit for ferreting out these cases of voter fraud, in reality, no one knows how much of it goes on — or how many election outcomes are affected — because it's difficult to detect and even harder to prosecute election crimes. Fraud could be minimal or it could be widespread and systemic. In Ohio, where voters need only present a utility bill or government check to cast a ballot, and any voter in the state can request an absentee ballot for any or no reason at all, it's relatively easy for someone desiring to skirt the law to do so. During my years as a poll worker and presiding judge, I had zero confidence that voters presenting non-photo IDs were who they claimed to be—and there was nothing I could do about it. The problem is worse now that my county has gone to electronic poll books, which make it virtually impossible to verify a signature match (not that it was a whole lot easier with the paper poll books). (Back in 2012, I gave some examples of how someone could very easily vote illegally, based on my experience as a poll worker.)
The White House has a list of voter fraud convictions across the nation, based on a report from the Heritage Foundation. Here are but a few examples from Ohio:
- False Registrations: Rebecca Hammonds, of East Liverpool, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of making a false registration and one count of election falsification. While working as a canvasser for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Hammonds falsely registered voters, including deceased individuals and residents who no longer lived in the community. Hammonds was sentenced to serve 180 days in jail.
- Duplicate Voting: Dominique Atkins pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted illegal voting, admitting that she received, filled out, and returned two absentee ballots in the 2010 elections. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail, but the judge suspended her sentence if she agreed to pay a $500 fine.
- False Registrations: Robert Gilchrist, a former director of the Lorain County Community Action Agency and a Lorain city official, was indicted on four felony counts of illegal voting. Gilchrist used the address of an old apartment to enable him to vote in four elections between November 2009 and May 2011 in a ward in which he did not live. Gilchrist was ordered to enter a one-year diversion program.
- Fraudulent Use of Absentee Ballots During the 2012 election: Russell Glassop obtained and submitted an absentee ballot in the name of his deceased wife. After Glassop pleaded guilty to absentee ballot fraud, the judge sentenced him to a diversion program.
- Fraudulent Use of Absentee Ballots: Sister Marguerite Kloos pleaded guilty and resigned as the Dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities for The College of Mount St. Joseph’s, after admitting that she cast an absentee ballot in the name of the late Sister Rose Marie Hewitt, who had died one month before the election. She was sentenced to a diversion program.
- Duplicate Voting: Melowese Richardson, a Cincinnati poll worker, voted twice in the 2012 election, once by absentee and once in person. Not an isolated event, she voted in the names of others--including her comatose sister--in three other elections. Richardson was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, but was released early.
- Ballot Petition Fraud: During a 2012 campaign for the statewide ballot petition on the “Voters First Ohio Amendment,” a group associated with the AFLCIO called Working America hired Timothy Zureick to collect petition signatures. Zureick forged the names of 22 prominent Athens Democrats, including those on the Athens County Board of Elections. The Democrats on the board alerted officials when their signatures appeared on the petitions they were certifying. Zureick entered into a plea agreement that stipulated he serve no prison time, but the judge nevertheless sentenced him to a week in jail to impress upon Zureick the gravity of his actions. The judge also ordered Zureick to pay all court costs within 60 days, and to perform 100 hours of community service within the first 24 months of his community control.
- Fraudulent Use of Absentee Ballots, Ballot Petition Fraud: Deshara M. McKinney, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to falsifying signatures on applications for absentee ballots while working as a canvasser in the 2009 ballot initiative to allow casinos in Ohio. McKinney fled the state after her fraud was discovered, and was eventually arrested in Michigan. She was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service. She was also required to pay court costs and the cost of her extradition.
The list goes on and on and includes a whole host of community-organizer types and poll workers, who understand better than anyone how easy it is to game the system.
Requiring a photo ID in order to vote and limiting absentee voting to those who truly need it would go along way toward ensuring election integrity and easing the public's mind about what goes on in precincts large and small across the U.S., but those commonsense measures are considered racist by those on the left who believe people of color aren't smart enough to vote without their assistance. Those of us who believe minority voters are every bit as intelligent and resourceful as their Caucasian counterparts are the real racists, and don't you forget it.
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