Voting Al-Qaeda in Ohio

As the off-year elections approach, the most attention-getting statewide race in Ohio is a ballot question on casinos. But one Ohio registered voter who might miss having his say on that critical question is convicted al-Qaeda terrorist Christopher Paul, who was sentenced back in February to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction to kill Americans.

A quick check of the Franklin County Board of Elections website finds that Paul is still registered to vote in Ohio. Speaking with Board of Elections spokesman Ben Piscitelli last week, he confirmed that Paul’s registration was still active and blamed the federal courts for not informing the board of his change of status. Piscitelli finally offered that the best way to have the al-Qaeda terrorist removed from the voter rolls is for me to file an official challenge to his registration.

Christopher Paul can hardly be described as a jihadist wanna-be. As Andy Cochran at the Counterterrorism Blog noted at the time of his plea agreement, Paul is the earliest known American al-Qaeda operative, joining the mujahadeen in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 1990s (though long after the departure of the Soviets) and continuing to communicate and obtain supplies for al-Qaeda operatives based in Europe.

As the statement of facts Paul admitted to in court describes, upon his return to the U.S. he began conducting jihadist training based out of the Columbus, Ohio, mosque he worked for as a paid martial arts instructor. He would also conduct training sessions at an Ohio state park, eventually building a sizable terrorist cell. According to documents filed in his case and the earlier cases against his two co-conspirators, Iyman Faris and Nuradin Abdi, the Columbus al-Qaeda cell grew to at least a dozen members, only three of which (Paul, Faris, and Abdi) have been charged. Paul was specifically convicted of planning terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens at home and abroad.

The implications of election authorities not able to remove convicted terrorists from voter rolls would seem to be self-evident. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem for the Franklin County Board of Elections.

In fact, it was only last year when I reported prior to the November 2008 presidential elections that Paul was still on the Ohio voter rolls. At that time, the Board of Elections claimed that since Paul had only pled guilty and had not yet been sentenced, he would be removed within of month of the court doing so. He was sentenced in February of this year and the paperwork finally was signed by the federal judge in March. However, after seven months, it seems whatever communications between the court and the Board of Elections needed to occur to remove Paul from the voter rolls have not happened yet.