Issues of double-voting concern officials in Ohio and Florida

CLEVELAND – Thousands of people who are registered in both Ohio and Florida possibly could vote twice in the presidential election through use of absentee ballots, a newspaper reported yesterday.

The Plain Dealer’s investigation of voter rolls in the two key battleground states found that some double voting has occurred previously and not only could occur again but could go undetected Tuesday.

Many states have only just begun to compile statewide voter registration lists to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002. Such lists allow state officials to find double registrations within a state, but states rarely coordinate with one another.

Virtually nothing prevents transitory voters from casting ballots in multiple states. In the 2000 presidential election, about 100 Ohio voters also cast ballots in Florida, where the presidential race was decided by just 537 votes, the northeast Ohio newspaper reported.

About 11,000 Republicans and 9,600 Democrats are registered in both Ohio and Florida, records show. There are at least 6,400 who are either independent or registered with another party.

Voters who migrate between multiple homes are supposed to declare themselves a primary resident of one state for voting purposes, said Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Residency rules differ from state to state.

The newspaper’s examination of voting records in three large Ohio counties — Cuyahoga (which includes Cleveland), Hamilton (which includes Cincinnati) and Franklin (which includes Columbus) — found more than 300 Ohio absentee ballots for Tomorrow’s election from people also eligible to vote in Florida. Many of these voters requested their Ohio ballots within days or weeks of registering to vote in Florida.

Records show a few of the voters from these three counties have requested absentee ballots from both states — potentially allowing them to vote twice without even going to a polling place.

“It is a problem,” said Sharon Harrington, the elections supervisor in Lee County, Fla. “Those are the ones that really ought to be caught.”