“Report shows voter fraud is rare” Columbus Dispatch editorial 3/5/2017

Columbus Dispatch editorial:
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“Report shows voter fraud is rare”

Less than one in a million.

Those are the chances a noncitizen will be found guilty of illegally voting in a statewide election in Ohio. It’s not because authorities aren’t doing all they can to detect and prosecute voter fraud. It’s because votes cast by noncitizens are extremely rare. And, nearly all result from honest mistakes, not fraud.

Once again, Secretary of State Jon Husted has performed a valuable public service by reporting on efforts to identify cases of potential voter fraud and referring them for possible prosecution.

Husted reported that 82 noncitizens voted in 2016. They were among 385 noncitizens improperly registered to vote. Combined with the numbers from the 2012 and 2014 elections, there have been 821 improper registrations and 126 improperly cast ballots. In those three elections, nearly 14.4 million Ohioans went to the polls.

So, for starters, over three statewide elections, a noncitizen cast an improper ballot for every 114,285 voters going to the polls. And, if Husted’s 2016 referrals follow the same pattern as those for 2012 and 2014, prosecutors will find that fewer than 1 in 5 deserve to be charged, and fewer still will be found guilty.

Following the 2012 and 2014 elections, Husted’s efforts resulted in a total of 44 cases of potential fraud being referred. After prosecutors examined the evidence, eight people were charged. Five were convicted. One went to a diversion program. The other two cases were sealed.

Bottom line: Even if all eight of those prosecuted had been convicted, they represent less than one voter in a million. In the 2012 and 2014 elections, nearly 8.8 million Ohioans went to the polls.

Why are noncitizens referred for investigation and possible prosecution so rarely charged? And so rarely found guilty? According to spokesmen for Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, prosecutors are much more likely to find honest mistakes than criminal intent. And those honest mistakes are not always the fault of the noncitizen voter; they sometimes are the mistakes of those who register voters and process voting rolls.

Since 1995, federal law — the so-called Motor Voter Law — has required motor vehicle registrars to offer customers the opportunity to register or re-register to vote.

From 2012 through 2016, Ohio’s deputy registrars have registered 896,601 new voters. Given such volume, it’s not rare for a noncitizen — oftentimes with limited English proficiency — to have a voter registration form placed in front of him. And for a mistake to happen.

Prosecutors frequently determine that a noncitizen who registered to vote never intended to register, said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney. “Sometimes they fill it out truthfully and it still gets through the system,” he said.

Given the rarity of voter fraud in Ohio, some have criticized Husted for devoting so much time and effort to track and report on it.

The Dispatch believes otherwise. The secretary of state is morally and legally obligated to protect the sanctity of the vote. A periodic examination educates the public, puts citizens and noncitizens on notice, and serves as a deterrent.

Voting rights advocates should welcome the vivid illustration of the rarity of voter fraud in Ohio. The plain facts disprove the wearisome claims about rampant voter fraud, made to justify efforts to enact tougher voter ID laws and other restrictions.

Voter fraud is likely at an all-time low in Ohio. That’s something to cheer.

“Redistricting and Voting Rights in Ohio” forum August 25, 2016

“Redistricting and Voting Rights in Ohio” August 25, 2016

Panelists:
Representative Kathleen Clyde (D), Ohio House District 75
Dr. John C. Green, Director, Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics
Senator Frank LaRose (R), Ohio Senate District 27

Moderator: Thomas Suddes, Editorial Writer, Cleveland.com

Overall Theme:
As with weather, everyone talks about gerrymandering — drawing legislative districts to favor one party over another — but until recently, few in Ohio were prepared to do anything about it. Nonetheless, Ohio has recently reformed how its draws General Assembly districts — and reform of congressional “districting” is on some Columbus agendas. This panel explores the hows and whys.

CWRU Siegal Facility, 26500 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood OH 44122
Cost: Free & Open to the Public

Co-sponsored by the Case Western Reserve University Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland, Cleveland.com, Plain Dealer plus Lakewood and Cuyahoga County Library Systems
Corporate sponsor: First Interstate Properties, Ltd.

Ohio county was poster child of voter fraud (February 3, 2017)

Ohio county was poster child of voter fraud

by Michael F. Curtin

President Donald Trump cannot suppress a primal urge to fume over voter fraud.

Nearly everyone with expertise in elections, to say nothing of psychotherapy, sees emotional need shouting over the hard evidence.

To find widespread voter fraud, on the scale alleged by Trump, we need to turn back the clock a century or more.

There was no better place to find it than in Ohio. And here, no better place than in rural, southern Ohio – especially Adams County.

The 1890s marked the height of boss rule and machine politics in Ohio. In that era, the most common form of voter fraud was the outright buying and selling of votes. In the saloons and betting parlors of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, a man easily could pocket a few dollars by promising a precinct committeeman to vote the right way in an upcoming election.

The practice was open and widespread, and regularly denounced by civic reformers such as Washington Gladden of Columbus, Tom L. Johnson of Cleveland and Samuel M. Jones of Toledo.

As flagrant as vote-buying was in the big cities, on a percentage-of-the-electorate basis, it was far more extensive in the hardscrabble counties of southern Ohio, which were almost entirely white and agricultural.

The best-documented case of all is from November 1910 in Adams County, home of white burley tobacco. Following that election, 1,690 men – 26 percent of the voting population – were found guilty of buying and selling votes.

As early as 1885, the practice was flourishing. “So entrenched was the employment of boodle that Adams County electors regarded it as rightful compensation for time spent going to the polls,” wrote Genevieve B. Gist. Her study, “Progressive Reform in a Rural Community: The Adams County Vote Fraud Case,” appeared in the June 1961 edition of The Mississippi Valley Historical Review.

Before each election, the two political parties “determined by canvass the amount of money required to win an election, raised the sum, and then divided it among the electorate. In 1910 prices of votes ranged from a drink of whiskey to $25, the average being $8,” Gist wrote. “In the November election of that year an estimated $20,000 was spent in this manner.”

Party leaders occasionally attempted a truce to stop the practice, only to cave to pressure from expectant voters. Party leaders found themselves in a Catch-22, finding it difficult to recruit men willing to run for office “since a candidate had to pay into the party coffers a sum equal to a year’s salary to aid in financing the boodle,” Gist wrote.

Still lacking the vote, women active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union began agitating for reform. They found a willing reformer in Adams County Common Pleas Judge Albion Z. Blair, who admitted past participation in the fraud.

On Dec. 13, 1910, Blair empaneled a special grand jury to examine the previous month’s election. He ordered the sheriff to post notices urging the guilty to come forward before arrest warrants were issued.

According to Gist, Blair knew many by name, and his method was informal.

“How about it, John, are you guilty?” he would ask.

“I reckon I am, judge.”

“All right, John, I’ll have to fine you $25, and you can’t vote anymore for five years. And I’ll just put a six-month’s workhouse sentence on top of that, but I won’t enforce it and I’ll suspend $20 of the fine as long as you behave.”

So it went. “The little village (of West Union) was overrun with penitents who came in one mighty procession,” hoping for leniency. One, a 70-year-old Civil War veteran, confessed: “I know it isn’t right, but this has been going on for so long that we no longer looked upon it as a crime.”

The spectacle attracted national attention, including a front-page story in the Christmas Day 1910 edition of The New York Times.

Blair imposed tougher financial penalties on the affluent. Some appealed their five-year voting bans. But on March 7, 1911, the Ohio Supreme court upheld their constitutionality.

The November 1911 edition of McClure’s Magazine carried an article written by Blair: “Seventeen Hundred Rural Vote Sellers: How We Disenfranchised a Quarter of the Voting Population of Adams County, Ohio.”

Columbus native Michael F. Curtin is formerly a Democratic Representative (2012-2016) from the 17th Ohio House District (west and south sides of Columbus). He had a 38-year journalism career with the Columbus Dispatch, most devoted to coverage of local and state government and politics. Mr. Curtin is author of The Ohio Politics Almanac, first and second editions (KSU Press). Finally, he is a licensed umpire, Ohio High School Athletic Association (baseball and fastpitch softball).