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Editorial: Ohio Secretary of State Overreaching with Voter Fraud Letter?

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted recently took President Barack Obama to task in a letter questioning the effects of his recent Immigration Accountability Executive Actions would have on voting in Ohio.

Husted claims that Obama’s actions “increase the potential that non-citizens may illegally register and vote by granting millions more access to the valid forms of identification used to register to vote.”

The Jan. 27 letter points out that “the recent executive actions enable millions of non-U.S. citizens to obtain valid Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. Under federal law, any person with a valid Social Security number or driver’s license can register to vote, so long as they attest to their eligibility to do so.”

Are Husted's claims well-reasoned or just political hyperbole? At worst, the secretary of state just publicly gave the very people he's concerned about the recipe to cheat.

The timing is interesting, because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting requests for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Feb. 18.

The Obama administration is aiming for a May rollout in its efforts to allow parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

Processing these requests will take months; then anyone registering to vote probably would not be eligible to vote until 2016, a presidential election year. So it's no wonder Husted is raising alarm bells now to give Republicans a repeatable mantra to use as an immigration scare tactic.

Husted also uses Ohio’s swing-state status to make his argument. “Voter confidence is paramount in all states, but magnified in swing states where our democratic system is put under the national and world microscope,” he wrote. Ohio has no special status when it comes to concern about voting rights and voter fraud. Every state shares that concern.

Husted raises particular concern with the voter registration drives conducted by third-party individuals and groups. He raises the possibility of more potential for fraud because those drives “occur outside of the presence of election officials.”

Yet the Ohio Secretary of State pared through voter registration rolls following the 2012 presidential election and found 291 non-citizens were registered to vote in Ohio. Just 17 of them had actually cast ballots. Those 17 were “referred for further investigation and potential prosecution and the rest were sent letters to cancel their Ohio voter registrations.” Husted does not indicate that the outcome of any race or issue was affected by those illegal votes.

Husted’s staff and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles found those voters after-the-fact. A screening process to prevent such fraudulent voter registrations in the first place may be the most prudent course of action.

“If the recent executive actions remain in force, it is imperative that state elections officials be given real-time access to accurate, searchable, electronic databases of non-citizens who have valid Social Security numbers in order to distinguish between citizens and lawfully-present non-citizens,” Husted wrote.

Husted makes that request, but even that should be limited in scope to prevent abuses by state officials who have abused their access to databases in the name of politics before. A case in point is the Ohio Job and Family Services employee who looked up confidential information on “Joe the Plumber” to discredit his candidacy for Congress.

No election system will be perfect. However, the best one successfully balances the right to vote with the safeguards of a fair, honest, and transparent election system.

Copyright © 1989 to 2015 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/10/15 19:56:35 -0800.




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