On Thursday, December 5, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose claimed 354 non-citizens either voted or were registered to vote last year, and he forwarded the names of those individuals to Attorney General Dave Yost for potential charges. Of the 354 reported, 77 of them cast ballots in 2018.
Now let’s put that into perspective.
4,416,067 Ohioans voted last year.
That’s less than a thousandth of a percent of total votes cast in the election. That’s slightly less than 0.002 percent.
A 2017 study from the Brennan Center For Justice shows that voter fraud is extremely rare. Even more important is that in instances such as this (354 alleged non-citizens being registered), mistakes are usually due to personal error, confusion about the process, or an administrative hiccup (as was the case with the 40,000 qualified voters nearly getting purged earlier this year in Ohio). Some of the 354 may have become citizens since the database was last updated. Others may have been mistakenly registered by a clerk at the BMV or low paid canvassers with registration goals.
The fear that is being produced is a disproportional response to the potential crimes committed.
Claims of voter fraud have been used as a tactic to bolster partisanship, especially among a party’s base, ahead of General Elections and to also discourage eligible voters from voting or even registering. Put simply, hyperbolic rhetoric about fraud scares potential voters. A perfect example of such happened right here in Ohio – billboards were strategically placed in Cleveland (and across the country in black and brown neighborhoods) during the 2012 election. Scare tactics such as these tend to keep communities of color, repatriated, and naturalized citizens at bay during elections.
Additionally, these claims are demoralizing to the electorate and election staff. Telling voters that the process is compromised can make people lose trust in the system and can bruise the confidence of hardworking Board of Elections employees.
Through this public fraudulence claim and continued voter purges, one thing is clear: Secretary LaRose needs to do more to ensue ALL eligible Ohioans are able to and encouraged to cast a ballot and participate in the democratic process.