Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted decided to support recent GOP talking points to justify suppressing the vote. In a letter sent to President Obama, Husted claims the President’s executive action to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation will lead to voter fraud. Too bad Husted’s previous comments and actions contradict his letter. I guess he hopes we all have brain damage and won’t remember what he said before.
The source of the problem is 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.1 As a result, the recent executive actions dramatically expand the opportunities for illegal voter registrations in Ohio and other states by non-citizen voters who have valid forms of identification and who willingly or negligently affirm their eligibility to vote. This problem is especially serious in the context of third-party voter registration drives, which are prevalent in Ohio and other states. Such drives occur outside of the presence of election officials who could explain that citizenship—not mere lawful presence—is a fundamental requirement for registering to vote and who can caution non-citizens against erroneous attestations.
But it seems back in 2013, Husted not only didn’t think undocumented immigrants voting was an issue but he had taken steps to better link Bureau of Motor Vehicles records and voting registrations.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today referred for investigation and potential prosecution 17 individuals who voted in the 2012 General Election though they were not citizens of the United States. This investigation was possible due only to the Secretary’s work over the past three years to clean up Ohio’s voter rolls and share government-held data, including information from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
While the state does not maintain a comprehensive database of all non-citizens in Ohio, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles does have some information by virtue of the fact that in order to obtain a driver’s license, someone who is not a citizen, but residing in Ohio legally, must provide documentation to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) on a regular basis. Records show that the 17 individuals in question provided non-citizen documentation before the November 6, 2012 election and have since provided the same non-citizen information. This is important because based on information they themselves provided to the BMV, there is a greater degree of certainty that they were not citizens at the time they cast ballots in Ohio.
In addition to the 17 individuals referred to the Attorney General today, the Secretary of State’s office has information that more than 274 non-citizens are currently registered to vote in Ohio, though there is no evidence that they have voted. They will be asked to cancel their registrations to help ensure only eligible voters are on Ohio’s voter rolls.
Seventeen undocumented immigrants actually voted. That is .0003 percent of the total votes cast is 2012. For Husted’s doomsday scenario, in his letter to the President, to take place, millions of undocumented immigrants would need to lie about their status to obtain driver licenses, social security cards, register to vote, and then actually cast a ballot – knowing full well that getting caught doing any one of those frauds would get the person deported after a lengthy jail term.
Cross referencing BMV and voter rolls seems like a good solution to Husted’s concerns.
The website ThinkProgress seems to think that Husted’s real motivation is to crack down on third-party voter registration programs used in minority areas that have low voter turn out.
Husted’s letter suggests he may use the specter of non-citizen voting to crack down on third-party voter registration, often a crucial get-out-the-vote tool for black and Latino communities with low voter turnout. “Such drives occur outside of the presence of election officials who could explain that citizenship—not mere lawful presence—is a fundamental requirement for registering to vote and who can caution non-citizens against erroneous attestations,” Husted wrote.
Florida and Texas have already targeted third-party voter registration drives, even after federal judges found the law unconstitutionally suppressed voting rights. Husted himself admitted in 2013 that there was no evidence that voter registration drives were plotting to register non-citizens to vote.
Even as he has dismissed the idea that voter fraud is an epidemic in Ohio, Husted has repeatedly fought to restrict voting. He became an infamous figure in the 2012 election for his efforts to cut early voting, going so far as to defy a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored in 2012. In 2014, Husted agreed to join an error-riddled multi-state voter purge database which he claims would prevent voters from casting ballots in multiple states during an election.
That seems more logical. Hobble or stop effective third-party registration drives and you can suppress the votes of African-Americans and Latinos who normally vote for Democrats.