Seventy-seven apparent non-citizens voted in Ohio’s general election in November 2018, the state’s top election official said Wednesday, and another 277 were able to successfully register in violation of state law.
The announcement from Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose – coming after years of GOP warnings of massive voter fraud – means that of the 4,496,834 ballots cast in Ohio on November 6, 2018, just .002% of them were illegal.
LaRose’s office said those caught are in the US legally, but do not hold US citizenship, and have been referred for investigation and prosecution by the state attorney general. A spokesman for Attorney General Dave Yost said his office was in the process of reviewing the matter.
The secretary of state’s office used the state’s voter registration database and motor vehicles department’s records of driver’s license and identification card applications that indicate one’s citizenship status to identify the non-citizens. Those who voted illegally and illegally registered to vote gave documentation to the department of motor vehicles identifying themselves as non-citizens, according to the release.
It also said notices were sent to the address where they are registered to vote requesting they cancel their voter registration or notify LaRose’s office if they have become a US citizen.
In November 2018, 8,070,917 people were registered to vote in the state, so the 354 illegal registrations represent just .004% of the total.
LaRose acknowledged “both voter fraud and voter suppression are exceedingly rare and certainly not as systemic as some claim.”
“However, neither are ever acceptable – even in rare or isolated instances. The only way to continue this high standard is by committing to enforce the law when it is broken,” he said in a press release.
The issue of voter fraud, however, has been a main focus of President Donald Trump. Without evidence, he has spread conspiracy theories that undocumented immigrants in the millions voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election and falsely claimed there was mass voter fraud that cost him the popular vote. An investigation by a now-disbanded commission Trump formed to investigate election integrity found no evidence of the claim.
Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in a federal election, but they are allowed to vote in some local elections. Under the National Voter Registration Act, states are required to give those applying for a driver’s license or renewing a drivers license an opportunity to register to vote.
Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, which criticized a similar review the state did in 2016, told CNN on Thursday that the non-citizens could have ended up registering to vote without knowing it and were unaware they broke a law.
“We take these numbers as a grain of salt. We think that with further investigation very few of these will result in conviction,” she said, “It’s in all of our best interest to avoid cases like this that very well may just be caused by language barriers or confusion over legal systems by immigrants. We do need to look at these cases, but also prevent these cases in the future.”
She added: “We need to double down on multilingual education materials. It is in everyone’s best interest for the Secretary of State to produce materials that better outline voter eligibility and processes.”
CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.