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Switcheroo: Ohio SoS Says Online Registration is the Solution to Non-Citizen Voting

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[Image courtesy of fierychill]

In the last few days, there have been stories in a few different states about non-citizen voting - small numbers, but non-zero numbers nonetheless. In just about every one of these states, the preferred solution has been to seek voter ID in order to ensure that registered voters are 1) who they say they are and 2) eligible citizens.

Ohio's Secretary of State Jon Husted, on the other hand, pulled a bit of a switcheroo yesterday - saying that online voter registration (which he supports and has been seeking) would have detected and prevented the limited number of non-citizens who registered and voted in 2012. The Plain Dealer has more:

Secretary of State Jon Husted said Wednesday that his office found nearly 300 people who are non-U.S. citizens but registered to vote in Ohio, including 17 who appear to have voted in the 2012 presidential election.

Those 17 cases, including four from Cuyahoga County, have been referred to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for possible prosecution.

The cases illustrate the need for online voter registration as a way to further bolster the integrity of Ohio's voting system, Husted said in a news conference. Data incorporated in an online registration system would have caught any non-citizen attempting to register in that manner.

"If the legislature had approved online registration and these individuals had attempted to register using that system, they could have been prevented from registering and they and our elections system would be better off," he said. "I again ask the legislature to take swift action on this common sense reform."

Indeed, Husted noted that the data that identified the non-citizens came from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) - which would have cross-checked those registrants under an OVR system:

Access to the BMV database made it possible to check for non-citizen voting, Husted said. And precisely because the data came from the BMV records, "we have a greater degree of certainty that they (the 17 who voted) were not citizens at the time they cast ballots in Ohio," he said.

That's because the BMV data is based on documents the people themselves provided to the state when they sought driver licenses. As part of that process, non-citizens must show documentation that they are in the state legally.

Husted's use of non-citizen voting to push OVR instead of voter ID is a really, REALLY important development; while states that have already adopted OVR often cite eligibility checks as a benefit, that fact often gets lots alongside expanding the electorate and cost efficiency. As the country prepares to enter another federal election year - which will inevitably bring renewed focus on the incidence and impact of voter fraud, including non-citizen voting - support for OVR as an anti-fraud measure could become a new talking point across the country. Given that OVR tends to attract consensus more than voter ID, this could signal another wave of states joining the
trend toward online registration.

On that subject, I will be interested to see if bills to enact OVR in Ohio move when the state legislature reconvenes in January 2014. Stay tuned ...

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