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BLUMER: ‘Ghost voting’ in Ohio is far too easy

By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog

At PJ Media last week, legal editor and former Department of Justice attorney J. Christian Adams reported that “Florida election officials are set to announce that the secretary of state has discovered and purged up to 53,000 dead voters from the voter rolls.”

Adams noted that Florida was able to conduct its purge because it “is now using the nationwide Social Security Death Index for determining which voters should be purged because they have died.” He contends that this index is “the best available data revealing which voters have died.”

There is still far too much potential for dishonest Ohioans to engage in undetected “ghost voting,” i.e., voting in the name of someone else. Though there has been notable improvement in preventing votes in the names of dead people, it’s way too easy to do so on behalf of other registered voters who are still alive.

Regarding ghost voting on behalf of corpses, in late 2006, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Cuyahoga County had “1.05 million registered voters, which tops the number of adults in the county by 200,000″ when compared to the Census Bureau’s population estimate. A Cleveland TV station’s extensive investigation using Social Security death records “uncovered 27 people who are dead, but votes were cast in their name anyway.”

On Tuesday, Matt McClellan, press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, told me that Ohio’s attempt to purge the voter rolls of those who are no longer with us now involves using the State and Territorial Exchange of Vital Events (STEVE). The related web page at the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) touts STEVE as “an innovative messaging application developed by the for the electronic exchange of vital event data between jurisdictions,” including, according to McClellan, monthly information about reported deaths in other states. The Secretary of State’s office refers potential matches found in Ohio’s statewide database of voter records to the relevant county boards of elections for investigation and disposition.

J. Christian Adams’ contention noted earlier about Social Security’s records notwithstanding, what Ohio now does in this regard appears to be adequate. The same cannot be said of the state’s efforts to prevent ghost votes on behalf of the living.

Because of the travesty of early voting, it seems extraordinarily easy, especially on an absentee basis, to request and then cast an infirm or apathetic relative’s or acquaintance’s vote. Because anyone can vote early without offering a mitigating reason (as opposed to the pre-2006 regime that required voters to attest that they had an acceptable reason why they couldn’t vote on election day before they could receive an absentee ballot), the potential for such fraud has increased exponentially.

Election day and in-person early voting for someone else is a bit more difficult but far from impossible. Because you don’t have to present picture ID, you probably won’t raise any suspicions as long as you can make your forged signature appear comparable to the one the voting precinct has on file (and which you will ordinarily be able to see before you obtain your ballot).

The in-person version of ghost voting would be much more difficult if Ohio required voters to present picture ID at the polls. Absentee voting would only be complicated by the need to run a copy of your unsuspecting friend’s or acquaintance’s ID.

Up until sometime after the May 2010 Republican primary, both at his site and in his campaign materials, Husted was an outspoken proponent of the voter ID requirement. He went silent on the topic until that year’s general election, and announced a change of heart last year. Reacting to the flip-flop, Mary Kissel at The Wall Street Journal anointed Husted “Ohio’s Pro-Fraud Republican.”

The blocking and tackling Husted’s office is doing to prevent ghost votes on behalf of the dead and his attempt to restrict the time period for in-person early voting are both important. But regardless of the secretary of state’s true intentions, I unfortunately must agree with Kissel.

 

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