Possible fraudulent voter registrations are being discovered in Ohio and officials fear that this may be a groundswell of thousands more to come.
"It's certainly not a joke,” said Alex Triantafilou, a member of the elections board and chairman of the county’s Republican Party. “In Ohio, that kind of activity is a felony. Any person who would engage in that kind of conduct with something as serious to our democracy as voting, is highly irresponsible and potentially criminal.”
Triantafilou also told Fox News that election officials fear more widespread fraud. “We have someone doctoring registrations, and the next step would be a serious move toward fraudulent voting. We are worried about it,” he said.
Election officials have flagged 200 possibly fraudulent voter registration cards, including one voter who registered as “John Adolf Hitler” after 33,000 new cards were sent to county officials across the state for verification in the final week leading up to Tuesday’s presidential election.
Many — if not all — of the suspect voter registration cards were filed by FieldWorks, a Washington, D.C., based third-party registration firm. They were flagged by the Hamilton County Board of Elections as possibly being fraudulent, reported Fox News.
The suspected fraudulent registration listed Hitler’s address as 666 Heltz in Los Angeles, which caught the eye of employees of FieldWorks, who brought it to the attention of elections workers.
Meanwhile, two directives from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted on Friday also raised concerns over the possibility that votes may be miscounted in the critical battleground state.
Both the campaigns of President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have identified The Buckeye State as essential to their chances of winning the election.
"I like to think that we do a lot of good work," FieldWorks co-owner Chris Galloway said in defending his organization. "A lot of people have gotten a black eye. We've seen the stories out of Florida, on ACORN . . . We want to make these operations, which in the past have not been great, to focus on quality control."
FieldWorks mainly works with Democratic candidates and progressive causes, he said, and takes very seriously the business of registering voters. “We have a zero tolerance for fraud. Not only is the employee committing fraud, but he is stealing from us,” Galloway said.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reported three FieldWorks employees to the local prosecutor after finding what appeared to be the same signature on multiple registrations — something that may also be considered voter fraud.
"We found multiple individuals where it looked like it was the same signature from the circulator who was circulating the petitions,” said Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Deputy Chairman Pat McDonald. “We want to make sure there is no potential fraud in any entity of elections administration."
It’s unclear whether the 200 suspect registrations were among the 33,000 forwarded to counties across the state last week by Husted, even though the deadline to register or update such records passed weeks ago.
The records were delayed because of a “data glitch” that slowed the verification of addresses between the Secretary of State’s office and the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles, according The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.
Scores of applications for absentee ballots have been denied by elections boards across the state because they could not verify voter’s addresses.
"The vast majority of the records collected electronically through the BMV change of address system between July and Oct. 9, 2012 were transferred late last week," Husted told election officials in a directive sent out on Oct. 29.
Counties were slammed with thousands of records to verify, update and, in some cases, send out new absentee ballots, elections officials said. This has caused concern that some applications for the mail-in ballots were rejected improperly before the updated voter cards had been received.
Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, said the problem was discovered late in a process the secretary of state started last year to clean up voter rolls and cut down on the number of provisional ballots cast in the state.
"At the end of the day, we’re proud of the work we’ve been able to do with the BMV and think this is a good thing for the voters and we’re getting the records updated," McClellan said.
Husted on Friday issued a directive which changes the way voter information is recorded for provisional ballots, shifting the burden of verifying some information on the ballots from poll workers to voters themselves.
Rather than have an elections worker verify the method by which voters are identified on provisional ballots in accordance with Ohio law, Husted is requiring that citizens themselves fill in the appropriate parts of the form, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.
Voting rights activists who filed the lawsuit said the change could result in legal provisional ballots being thrown out, according to ThinkProgress.org.
A reporting tool, described as a “pilot project” by McClellan to NBC News, also was installed Friday on many voting machines in 25 counties across the state, raising further concerns that voting machines could have issues on election day.
The Columbus Free Press reported Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske told Secretary of State employees in an email that the software is meant to “aid in the reporting of results that are already uploaded into the county's system. The software formats results that have already been uploaded by the county into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State's election night reporting system."
The installation was tied to a last-minute contract between Husted’s office and Election Systems and Solutions, the company that is responsible for machines used in Ohio elections.
Because the updates are being referred to as an experimental pilot program, and are only being used on a fraction of the machines in a limited number of counties in the state, the software doesn’t need to be verified by the state and can be installed at the last minute.
“It basically just creates a one-way flow of information — and that is simply from their system, out,” McClellan said. “So at no point in time are we going into their system and messing with anything . . . I’m not sure the exact timeline of that, but I know we’ve been working with the counties for the past couple of months on getting these in place, testing them to make sure they work properly, and working with the vendors as well.”
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