Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be considered an encouragement to commit voter fraud. The intention of this satirical how-to guide is to expose the flaws in Ohio’s election laws and to call for reform of a system that makes it incredibly easy to vote fraudulently in this important swing state. Voter fraud is a felony in Ohio.
As a precinct election official, I have seen exceptionally professional behavior by my fellow poll workers and county board of election officials. However, they are at the mercy of loose state election laws. Though Ohio has a Republican governor and legislature, they backed down on their efforts to pass a voter ID law and refused to reform the state’s no-fault absentee voting rules, making the commission of voter fraud a relatively simple matter.
“Providing voters with free, fair, open, and honest elections ensures voter trust in the process of choosing our political leadership and the direction of our community’s future. Voters who have confidence in the elections process are more likely to continue to vote.” (Ohio Precinct Election Official Manual)
As a tribute to my state’s open invitation to voter fraud, I present:
The Idiot’s Guide to Committing Voter Fraud in Ohio
While all of these methods are illegal, some are more complicated than others. I’ve arranged them into three levels, depending on their complexity and outside resource requirements.
- Vote for a friend or family member you know won’t show up at the polls on election day.
If you decide that one vote just isn’t enough to show your love for your favorite candidate on Election Day, why not “help” a sick (or lazy) friend or family member you know won’t be voting? This could be your roommate, your brother who hates politics and never bothers to vote, or your grandfather, who is bedridden with Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, Ohio makes it easy and you won’t even need anything as complicated as a fake ID.
Here are some acceptable forms of ID permitted in Ohio:
* A cable or cell phone bill (electronically transmitted or paper copy)
* A bank statement
* A government check (even an out-of-state government check will do) or a paycheck
* Other government document. This can be a school report card, college transcript from a state university (in or out of Ohio), or divorce papers.
As long as you can come up with a document that matches the current name and address on file at the board of elections, you can vote for someone else in Ohio.
When you arrive at the precinct, you will be required to sign the signature poll book on Election Day. In theory, it should match the signature on file in the book. According to the 2012 Precinct Election Official Training Manual:
If the voter’s signature, in the opinion of the majority of all four precinct election officials, does not substantially conform to the signature in the Signature Poll Book, the voter MUST vote a provisional ballot.
Not a problem. There are two simple ways to get around this. The first way is probably the least complicated. The signature pollbook with the “real” signature will be right there in front of you. You have to really botch the signature to convince three poll workers (from a slate of two Republicans and two Democrats) that it does not “substantially conform” to the original. This is especially true if you arrive at a busy time, when poll workers are looking at a line out the door. Just feign an injury to your writing hand and apologize for your scribbles. Another option would be to simply sign with an “X” and then proceed to vote a regular ballot. (This may invite additional scrutiny, so the first method is preferred.)
- A variation to this method is to show up with no ID and present the last four numbers of your friend’s Social Security number in lieu of ID.
This is a bit more complicated because you will be required to sit at a separate booth, fill out a provisional ballot envelope, and vote a paper ballot. It’s slower than voting at the touch-screen voting machines, but avoids ALL ID requirements. When the board of elections receives your provisional ballot, they are only required to check to see that the name, address, and last four digits of the Social Security Number all match a registration on file at the BOE; the vote will then be counted.
- An even easier way to accomplish your goal of voting early and voting often is to do so in the privacy of your home through the convenience of the absentee ballot.
Ohio has no-fault absentee voting. “Any qualified Ohio voter…may request and vote an absentee ballot without stating a reason.” To make it even easier, the secretary of State, in an attempt to calm Democrats who cried foul over Ohio’s ban on counties sending out unsolicited absentee applications, is sending preemptive applications to every registered voter in the state. Simply apply for an absentee ballot for a friend who doesn’t plan to vote and follow the instructions on the ballot. All you’ll need are the last four digits of the friend’s Social Security number, OR their Ohio driver’s license number, OR a cable TV bill (see above for acceptable forms of ID). Have the absentee ballot sent to your address and mail it in before Election Day. Repeat as necessary for all your sick and tired friends.
[Note: In prior elections, we have recommended voting for deceased voters who are still on the registered voters lists. But we recently spoke to Matt McClellan, press secretary for SOS Jon Husted, who told us that Ohio has removed 150,000 dead voters from the rolls since Husted took office. He said that Ohio's voter registration lists "are in the best shape they've been in in years." Husted confirmed that (officially?) via his personal Twitter account on Sept. 10th. We now suggest sticking with the names of "live" voters.]
- Commit campus voter fraud. Register non-resident college students who are attending school in Ohio.
This is an excellent group project, especially for community organizers. Though the Ohio Revised Code defines “residence” for voting purposes as the place of permanent, fixed habitation which would exclude a temporary college residence, no one is going to check and SOS Husted will likely not issue a directive advising boards of election not to accept registrations from such students.
Here is an Ohio college student from Texas in 2008 explaining why registering and voting in the swing state of Ohio gave her vote more “weight” than it would have had in her home state of Texas (see 3:49-4:08):
College students who have the misfortune of being legal residents of very liberal or very conservative states that won’t matter much in November are, sadly, disenfranchised. We should make every effort to help them by organizing voter registration drives for these kids who have every intention of returning to their home states during the summer and after graduation. Though technically illegal, registering them to vote in Ohio would help their votes to “count more.” Since young voters tend to be unreliable on Election Day, it might be worth taking the extra step of requesting absentee ballots for them, so they don’t have to crawl out of their dorm rooms on a frigid November day in Ohio.
- Overwhelm boards of election with provisional ballots by voting in the wrong precinct.
Last month, a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the S.E.I.U., saying that, contrary to Ohio law, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct in Ohio must be counted, unless the board of elections can “verify” that poll workers directed the voter to the correct precinct and the voter refused to go. Either way, if you (or your group) can flood the precincts with voters who don’t belong there, poll workers will be forced to offer you provisional ballots. Provisional ballots must be hand-processed and checked against the voter registration list at the county board of elections. Imagine the mayhem that will ensue on election night when boards, in addition to their regular duties, are flooded with thousands of unexpected provisional ballots. The risk that some of these fraudulent “overvotes” or votes in the wrong location will slip through the system will be multiplied if we can flood the system with provisional ballots. [Note: Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a motion to intervene in the case recently since SOS Husted declined to appeal, so this recommendation is subject to change.]
- Commit widespread voter fraud on a massive scale.
A special interest group determined to commit widespread voter fraud should consider Ohio, since it’s a relatively easy target. Most of the techniques listed above can be adapted to large groups, provided you have a competent computer hacker or insider to provide you with Social Security numbers or bulk utility bills. While this may seem like a tall order, keep in mind that in 2010, the computers at The Ohio State University were hacked, compromising the Social Security numbers of 760,000 people. And in 2006, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office sent CD’s to 20 political operatives, exposing the Social Security numbers of 7.7 million registered voters. It’s probably less a matter of “rocket science” than it is a matter of having the right person in the right place at the right time.
Once you know you have that required information available to you, it’s simply a matter of going through lists of registered voters (available at the county boards of elections) and finding people who have not voted in recent elections. If you can assemble a team that is willing to work hard on Election Day, you can potentially vote for thousands of registered voters who won’t show up at the polls. After all, you know they love your candidate and would vote for him if they weren’t too busy, tired, apathetic, or lazy, so you’re doing the right thing.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of voter fraud techniques. The list will continue to expand as the Obama campaign continues to bombard the courts with lawsuits alleging all manner of voter suppression. Members of the mainstream media, including Senator Sherrod Brown’s wife, Connie Schultz (until recently, on staff at the Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper), will continue to plead our case to the public, insisting that voter ID amounts to racism and that no voter fraud exists, mainly because they haven’t caught any of us yet. Of course, it would be nearly impossible to detect most of the voter fraud we are suggesting here. We salute you, Connie (and others in your noble profession). See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is one of our best weapons. We also salute Governor Kasich, the Ohio legislature, and Sec. of State Husted for not enacting voter ID laws in this important election year. We were a little worried after Republicans took over the legislature and all statewide offices in 2010. As it turned out, our fears were unfounded.
Though it’s too late for a voter ID law for this election, we know our days are numbered as the American people overwhelmingly favor such measures. Our biggest fear in November is not only vigilant poll workers and county election workers scrupulously carrying out their duties, but also volunteer poll watchers, who keep them accountable and make sure procedures are followed on Election Day. Beyond that, there’s not much they can do to stop us this year.
Our goal in November is not only to scrape out a few more votes for our chosen candidates, but to undermine confidence in the elections process — and if it’s a close election, to send the outcome to the courts, where we are confident we can win.