Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), convinced of a voter-fraud scourge that doesn’t exist, launched a massive, expensive, two-year investigation. It hasn’t turned out well – in a state of 3 million people, Schultz uncovered just five instances of voter fraud that resulted in guilty pleas.
Maybe a similar investigation in Ohio would prove more fruitful? Zachary Roth takes a closer look at the latest from the Buckeye State.
Seventeen non-citizens voted in the November 2012 election in Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Wednesday morning, but he acknowledged that there’s no evidence of an organized effort to register non-citizens.“It exists, it’s rare, violators will be held accountable,” Husted said of non-citizen voting during a press conference at his Columbus office.
The key word in that paragraph is “rare” – over 5.6 million votes were cast in Ohio during the last election cycle, and after an extensive investigation, the Republican Secretary of State found 17 non-citizens who cast ballots.
But wait, proponents of voting restrictions will say. Seventeen is greater than zero, so maybe voter-ID laws can help prevent voting irregularities? Not in this case, no – all 17 of Ohio’s non-citizen voters are in the United States legally, and each had legitimate identification.
In other words, even under the strictest voter-ID system, these 17 people could have gone to their local precinct and cast ballots anyway. A voter-ID law wouldn’t have prevented any of these 17 folks from voting.
So what are we left with? An extensive effort to identify a problem that doesn’t really exist in any kind of consequential way, which will nevertheless be followed by calls for new voting restrictions that wouldn’t address the miniscule problem anyway. That, plus a debunking of Republican allegations that there was a coordinated effort to get non-citizens in Ohio to vote in 2012.
Imagine if these same officials invested a fraction of these efforts in expanding voting rights and making it easier for Americans to participate in their own democracy.