Voter rolls questioned

File photo. Voters at
Bowling Green City Park. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

Wood County’s registered voters outnumber the total number of voting age residents here.
Those figures are adding up to some controversy about the potential for voter fraud, according to one
state official.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wood County has 98,213 residents of eligible voting age. The county,
however, has 104,450 registered voters – a 106 percent registration rate. One other Ohio county, Morrow,
also has voter rolls outnumbering its eligible voters.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Jon Husted stated his concerns that
the inaccurate numbers allow voter fraud.
"This means there are ineligible voters on our rolls. Common sense says that the odds of voter fraud
increase the longer these ineligible voters are allowed to populate our rolls. I simply cannot accept
that," Husted wrote. "I am compelled, if not required, to scrub the voter rolls of ineligible
names in the affected counties."
The inconsistency in local voter registration numbers can be explained, said Terry Burton, deputy
director of the Wood County Board of Elections.
While the total number of registered voters in the county is 104,450, the number of "active"
voters is actually closer to 76,000.
"Those are the people out there voting on an ongoing basis," Burton explained.
The higher number includes people who no longer reside in the county, such as the transient population of
students and some employees of Bowling Green State University.
"It’s not a real number," Burton said. "Eventually, we can get rid of them." But it’s
not that easy to mark someone off the list – and that’s what Husted finds troubling.
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the "motor voter" law, makes it easier for
people to register to vote. For example, it allows them to register when they get drivers’ licenses.
But that law also makes it more difficult to remove someone from the voting rolls. Unless officials have
a death certificate or written confirmation from the voter that they’ve moved, a voter must miss two
presidential elections before a name can be removed. It is possible for an individual to move to another
state without canceling their Ohio voter registration and register to vote in their new state of
Burton explained that the main goal of the 1993 act was to make voter registration more accessible.
"In an effort to protect voters, they have made it very time consuming to take people off the
rolls," Burton said.
That has Husted concerned, and he has requested a meeting with Holder to discuss how the problem can be
But Burton thinks there are enough safeguards built into the newer voter identification rules in Ohio to
prevent voter fraud.
He explained that the "inactive" voters can return to the polls after missing several elections
– as long as they follow the statewide rules of presenting photo identification or a current bill with a
local address.
"They can come to the polls and vote, but they will have to do the same thing everyone else
does," Burton said.
Poll workers are trained to ask for the proper identification.
"I just don’t think it has been a problem," Burton said of voter fraud. "Those people
aren’t coming back and falsely voting."
Burton also noted that Wood County’s registered voter numbers may also appear inflated compared to some
metropolitan areas where voters make less of an effort to get to the polls.
"More people are civically active here," he said.
Burton said he can recall only one case of proven voter fraud in recent years in Wood County. In that
case, a man voted in the last presidential election in Ottawa and Wood counties. The duplicate vote was
caught by the state voting system, he said.

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