Ohio’s elections chief at odds with Trump over claims of voter fraud

Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted pushed back Wednesday on President Donald Trump’s claim that massive voter fraud cost him the popular vote. Trump is now calling for a federal investigation.

Husted said that while voter fraud does occur, it is rare and that the president appears to be equating voter fraud with the existence of names on voter registration rolls of people who are dead, have moved or who are not citizens.

“I think it’s a stretch to suggest that all of those are going to actually result in a fraudulent vote being cast because the vast majority of them never end up doing that,” Husted said in an interview Wednesday.

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On Wednesday Trump tweeted, “I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

Husted said he was getting his kids ready for school when he saw news of Trump’s tweet. Husted responded with a tweet of his own, “We conducted a review 4 years ago in Ohio & already have a statewide review of 2016 election underway. Easy to vote, hard to cheat #Ohio.”

Trump and Husted are both Republicans.

Every two years Ohio conducts top-down reviews of allegations of voter fraud or voter suppression.

In four years the review found 667 irregularities, 149 of which were referred to state and local law enforcement, Husted said. Separately from those, Husted said 22 individuals were found to have voted in two states and 44 non-citizens were found to have voted. He said most cases referred to law enforcement turn out to be an honest mistakes or are handled with an admission of wrongdoing and probation.

“In most of these cases it was an attempt at voter fraud. it wasn’t an actual successful vote,” Husted said.

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He’s confident that if there were a federal investigation no major problems would be found in the state.

“I welcome anybody to look under the hood and investigate our system in Oho because I am very confident that we will come through with flying colors,” Husted said.

Last year an investigation by this newspaper of the state’s voting systems found multiple systems and practices in place to protect the integrity of the vote.

Post-election audits by all 88 boards of election in the state found 99.998 percent accuracy in the November 2016 results.

“Statewide only 22 discrepancies were noted in the presidential tally during the audit process,” according to Husted’s office. “Most discrepancies were caused by voters not properly marking paper ballots according to the instructions, causing the machines to be unable to read the vote.”

Husted has long asserted that the it is the job of states, not the federal government, to run elections and he does not want federal involvement.

But he said he has made two recommendations to the president on how the federal government can help states. One is to allow states to cross-check voter rolls with the Department of Homeland Security records on non-citizens and the second is to get more states to share their voter rolls so that duplicate registrations can be flagged.

Ohio is one of two dozen states that cross-match voter rolls to look for duplicate registrations.

And the state also checks death records and other data to remove the names of people who have died or moved, said Husted.

Voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S. and the fact that dead people are still on some voter rolls or people are registered in more than one state is not voter fraud unless someone attempts to vote fraudulently.

These facts are backed up by multiple national studies and interviews with voting experts.Trump has warned of voter fraud since before the election, which he won by taking the most electoral votes.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.On Monday Trump told congressional leaders that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes by immigrants cost him the election but he offered no proof of that.

On Tuesday Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s claim.“He believes what he believes based on the information he was provided,” said Spicer, who provided no evidence to back up the president’s statements.

Trump’s own attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan late last year.

“On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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