With Ohio’s special congressional election still too close to call, questions have been raised about the veracity of voter rolls in the swing state.
Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson, of Zanesville, leads Democrat Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder, in unofficial results from the Aug. 7 special election. The Associated Press has not called the race given that Balderson and O’Connor are separated by less than a percentage point and thousands of votes are outstanding. The official canvass can begin Saturday.
Since the election, some conservative websites have published stories citing a survey conducted last August by the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, which found 170 registered voters over the age of 116 in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District in 2016.
While it may appear on paper that people so old are voting in the bellwether state, that is not the case.
A look at the claim from Eric Eggers, author of the report and research director for the institute, about voting ages in the central Ohio congressional district:
EGGERS: “Data showed that there were 170 voters in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District that have birth dates of 1900 and in some cases even 1800. These are all opportunities for fraud,” during an Aug. 10 interview with One America News Network, a cable news channel.
THE FACTS: Eggers is correct that records for some voters in the district list birthdates that fall 116 or more years ago. However, Ohio state election officials say that does not mean they’re that old. Before 1974, the state did not require voters to provide dates of birth on registration forms. Those who didn’t enter birthdates back then often had them automatically added as placeholders by the local election boards. The dates used in those cases were 1800-01-01 or 1900-01-01 or, in a few cases, 1901.
Eggers examined the 2016 election using voter registration information from the Ohio secretary of state’s website, flagging voters who appeared to be over the age of 116.
Ohio election officials don’t dispute Eggers’ count of 170. According to their most recent figures, which were provided to The Associated Press, of the 544,510 voters in the district, 165 have placeholder dates of birth.
Despite the state’s explanation, Eggers said it still points to a flaw in the system.
“Why voter rolls are inaccurate is irrelevant,” Eggers said in an email to the AP. “The point is that they are inaccurate.”
Ohio election officials say they verify voters by checking their addresses and other forms of identification including driver’s licenses or state IDs.
“No one over 116 voted,” said Sam Rossi, a spokesman for the secretary of state.
Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told the AP that birthdates in the 1800s and early 1900s do not represent voter fraud but an election administration issue.
“It seems to me that we are all on high alert when it comes to elections, and some of that is fairly appropriate, but a lot of it is misplaced,” she said.
Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted noted that, under his tenure, his office has removed 680,000 dead voters from the record and reconciled nearly 2 million duplicate registrations and now has complete information on more than 90 percent of voters, up from just 20 percent when he took office in 2011.