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The Athens County Board of Elections continues to work after the election season. (FILE)

Voter fraud receives renewed national attention, but Ohio officials refute claims

President Donald Trump has called for a national investigation into voter fraud, but instances in Athens County and throughout Ohio remain low.

Athens County had one case of fraud in the 2016 election, Debbie Quivey, the director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said. Quivey said the case involved a man who resided and registered in New York, but kept his Ohio driver’s license. The board members learned about it and pulled his ballot after he posted on social media.

Trump claimed in January that voter fraud occurred on a large scale in the 2016 election and said in a series of tweets that he would ask for a “major investigation.” Ohio investigates voter fraud in the state every two years, and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has refuted Trump's claims.

Trump doubled down on his claims of fraud Sunday in an interview with Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly.

2012 Presidential Election: Cases Referred to Law Enforcement for Further Investigation

Cases identified by county election boards and cases identified by the Ohio Secretary of State through the Interstate Crosscheck Program.

“We just want to point out that here in Ohio, we have a very robust system,” Katrice Williams, a policy associate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said. “It’s very difficult to cheat in Ohio.”

Pete Couladis, chair of the Athens County Republican Party, said although cases of fraud occur, there is no evidence to suggest fraud on a large level. Furthermore, Coualdis said the federal government should not be involved in dealing with voter fraud.

“It’s a state issue,” Couladis said. “The states run the election, not the federal government.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper that no federal money should be spent on such an investigation because it is a state matter.

Quivey said counties in the state are connected via a computer system and are always feeding each other information. That allows the counties to check for duplicate registrations. In the case of a duplicate registration, the county with that voter’s most recent information keeps the registration and the other county cancels the previous registration, Quivey said.

“There is nothing that checks duplicate registrations from state to state right now,” Quivey said.

Quivey said, however, Ohio does have partnerships with other states to check for duplicates. Ohio is part of a network of states called the Interstate Crosscheck Program, which allows the states to share data and identify cases of people registering in two states. As of May 2016, the program had 30 states participating, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I always remind everybody: it’s not illegal to be registered in two states,” Quivey said. “What’s illegal is if you vote (in two states).”

Quivey said many people registered in two states probably aren’t aware of it and consequently don’t notify anyone that they’re registered in another state.

Williams said to register to vote, people must go through multiple layers of checks, which includes providing proof of address and certain forms of identification. Such identification and proof of address include a driver’s license, state-issued identification, bank statement or letter from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services — all of which require a social security number, Williams said.

“I think the matter of most urgency is ensuring that there are no cuts to early voting, or to ensure that people are not purged from the rolls unnecessarily, or that we’re not instituting photo ID bills,” Williams said. “That’s what we should be wary of, and I think Trump’s claims of voter fraud lend credibility to those types of legislation passing.”

Steven Harsman, the deputy director for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said in his nearly 30 years of experience, most cases of suspected fraud turn out to be mistakes, and there is no evidence of fraud on a significant scale. He said Montgomery County had one case from the 2016 election the board turned over to the prosecutor's office.

“Anyone that would make those statements are probably not an election official,” Harsman said.


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