Ohio Secretary Jon Husted’s office announced last week that his ongoing investigation into voter fraud has identified 27 people who are not citizens, but voted in Ohio elections. An earlier report by Husted’s office found that 17 “non-citizens” had cast ballots, adding up to a total of 44 illegally cast ballots since 2012.
Given these numbers, less than 0.0006 percent of the 7.7 million registered voters in Ohio cast illegal ballots. Despite the miniscule numbers, Husted hailed the efforts as a success.
“No amount of voter fraud is acceptable and as the state’s chief elections officer it is my responsibility to maintain our voter rolls and ensure only those who are eligible are participating in our elections,” Husted said in a statement.
In 2013, Husted forwarded 17 cases of what appeared to be non-citizen voting during the 2012 presidential election to the Ohio attorney general, resulting in four convictions. Many more voting irregularities were reported by elections officials during the general election, but prosecutors across the state told Cleveland.com that the majority were the result of voter confusion or mistakes by officials.
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“Basically, I found that there wasn’t an overwhelming pattern of voter fraud,” Butler County Prosecutor Michael T. Gmoser told the local news outlet. “There’s a couple of isolated incidents of people making bone-headed decisions.”
Husted has admitted as much, saying on Thursday that voter fraud is rare. Still, Husted said he will continue to investigate those voting illegally and called on the federal government to aid him in the process.
Husted, in a February letter to President Obama, said he is worried that the president’s executive action on immigration will increase the number of people voting illegally in the state.
“As chief elections official in a key swing state, I take very seriously my responsibility to make it both easy to vote and hard to cheat by ensuring that only eligible voters may participate in federal, state, and local elections,” he said in a statement about the letter, arguing that the executive action will expand a “loophole” allowing undocumented immigrants to vote.
Some Ohio lawmakers have pointed out that not only has Husted focused on the nonexistent issue of “non-citizen” voter fraud, he also has not taken steps to make voting easier.
“I would like to see the Secretary of State focus on the real problem in our elections instead of playing to his base with these distractions,” Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde said in a statement. “Ohioans deserve answers on why their votes are being thrown out,” she said, in reference to the 10,000 absentee ballots rejected during the 2014 election.
Ohio is one of many states that have painted voter fraud as a rampant threat to elections, using the issue to push legislation that makes casting ballots harder for many Americans who are legally registered to vote, particularly Black Americans.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to include the correct percentage of registered Ohio voters who cast illegal ballots.