Bush Orders DOJ to Probe Ohio Voter Registrations
President George W. Bush late Friday asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate whether hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters in the battleground state of Ohio would have to verify the information on their voter registration forms or be given provisional ballots, an issue the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on last week.
The unprecedented intervention by the White House less than two weeks before the presidential election may result in at least 200,000 voters in Ohio not being able to vote on Election Day. Information on the 200,000 voter registration forms does not match up exactly with information on government databases. Republicans are claiming that's evidence of voter registration fraud.
But the mismatched information can be attributed to misspellings and other minor mistakes, not a malicious intent on the part of voters to cast fraudulent ballots.
Still, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Bush Friday asking that he order the Department of Justice to probe the matter claiming Ohio election officials are not complying with federal law. Boehner wants Mukasey to order the Ohio Secretary of State to identify the 200,000 voters by county and precinct and be given a provisional ballot until their registrations are confirmed. Provisional ballots largely go uncounted.
“I strongly urge you to direct Attorney General Mukasey and the Department of Justice to act." Boehner said in his letter “Unless action is taken by the Department immediately, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of names whose information has not been verified through the [Help America Vote Act] procedures mandated by Congress will remain on the voter rolls during the November 4 election; and there is a significant risk if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted. Given the Election Day is less than two weeks away, immediate action by the Department is not only warranted, but also crucial.”
Independent studies have shown that phony registrations rarely result in illegally cast ballots because there are so many other safeguards built into the system.
For instance, from October 2002 to September 2005, a total of 70 people were convicted for federal election related crimes, according to figures compiled by the New York Times last year. Only 18 of those were for ineligible voting.
In recent years, federal prosecutors reached similar conclusions despite pressure from the Bush administration to lodge “election fraud” charges against voter registration groups seen as bringing more Democratic voters into the democratic process.
Some of the Bush administration prosecutors who refused to seek these indictments were then fired in 2006 as part of a purge of nine U.S. Attorneys deemed not “loyal Bushies.”
This “prosecutor-gate” scandal led to the resignations of several senior White House and Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. President Bush then asserted broad executive privilege to block testimony by Karl Rove and other top White House officials.
In a statement on his website, Boehner said starting today, “Ohio elections officials will begin removing ballots cast during the state’s early voting period from their identifying envelopes, eliminating any possibility of catching fraudulently cast ballots.”