A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Voting Conspiracies


Q: Is it true that there were more votes than voters in Wood County, Ohio, and St. Lucie County, Fla., and that Obama lost every state with photo ID laws?

A: No. A viral email that makes those claims is bogus. It fabricates Ohio and Florida results. Also, Obama won four of the 11 states with photo ID laws.

FULL QUESTION

Is this true?

Viral email: Most everyone suspected fraud, but these numbers prove it and our government and media refuse to do anything about it.

As each state reported their final election details, the evidence of voter fraud is astounding. Massive voter fraud has been reported in areas of OH and FL, with PA, WI and VA, all are deploying personnel to investigate election results.

Here are just a few examples of what has surfaced with much more to come.

* In 59 voting districts in the Philadelphia region, Obama received 100% of the votes with not even a single vote recorded for Romney. (A mathematical and statistical impossibility).

* In 21 districts in Wood County Ohio, Obama received 100% of the votes where GOP inspectors were illegally removed from their polling locations – and not one single vote was recorded for Romney. (Another statistical impossibility).

* In Wood County Ohio, 106,258 voted in a county with only 98,213 eligible voters.

* In St. Lucie County, FL, there were 175,574 registered eligible voters but 247,713 votes were cast.

* The National SEAL Museum, a polling location in St. Lucie County, FL had a 158% voter turnout.

* Palm Beach County, FL had a 141% voter turnout.

* In Ohio County, Obama won by 108% of the total number of eligible voters.

NOTE: Obama won in every state that did not require a Photo ID and lost in every state that did require a Photo ID in order to vote.

Imagine that!

FULL ANSWER

This email claims there was “massive voter fraud” in a handful of U.S. states, but nearly all of the examples given are wrong or completely fabricated. (One is mostly true, but lacks context.) The anonymous author of this bogus tirade may want to believe that votes were falsely recorded for President Obama, but the supposed “evidence” cited in the email is simply imaginary.

We’ll go through each point in this message, which has been forwarded to us by several readers. The claims made here also have popped up on conservative blogs and message boards.

Made-Up Claims About Wood County, Ohio

Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections, doesn’t know why fabricated claims about votes in Wood County, Ohio, are swirling around the Internet. “The misrepresentations of the outcome of the 2012 elections … continue to be [a] mystery and a point of frustration to our office,” he told us in an email. The actual results, he said, “are plainly available on our website.”

The viral claims include a made-up statistic about Wood County’s results:

Claim: In 21 districts in Wood County Ohio, Obama received 100% of the votes where GOP inspectors were illegally removed from their polling locations – and not one single vote was recorded for Romney. (Another statistical impossibility).

Actually, Obama didn’t get 100 percent of the vote in any district in Wood County, as anyone can clearly see on the election board’s website. Obama garnered 51.21 percent of the vote overall in the county.

As for the claim that “GOP inspectors were illegally removed from their polling locations,” there’s nothing to that, either. It appears to have been pure fantasy on the part of this anonymous email author. “The random accusations which continue to be made regarding Wood County are untrue,” says Burton. “No candidate received 100% of the vote in any precinct in Wood County, no precinct officials were removed during Election Day and no issues were identified during a recount and/or the required state audit.”

The viral email goes on to suggest there was voter fraud in Wood County with more votes cast than eligible voters. But that’s not the case, either.

Claim: In Wood County Ohio, 106,258 voted in a county with only 98,213 eligible voters.

Actually, according to the Ohio Secretary of State data, 63,948 votes were cast for president in Wood County in 2012, with 32,802 votes for Obama, 29,704 for Romney, and 1,442 for other candidates. Once again, the figures in the email are completely off base.

What the anonymous author is attempting to question is the number of registered voters in Wood County, a figure that is artificially high because of college students at Bowling Green State University remaining on the voter rolls. There were 108,014 registered voters in the county, according to the Secretary of State website. But the total population of Wood County is 126,355, with only about 99,000 of those over the age of 18. The apparent discrepancy comes from Bowling Green students not canceling their registrations when they graduate and leave the area. Burton told the Columbus Dispatch that nonactive voters stay on registration rolls for two election cycles before the election board tries to contact them. Then, it’s two more cycles before anyone the board can’t find is deleted. That means college students can remain on registration lists for more than a decade after they’ve left Wood County. Back in 2004, for instance, there were 90,688 registered voters in the county, but only 64,103 showed up at the polls to vote.

Wood County follows federal laws for removing inactive voters. Says Burton: “Wood County has worked closely with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to ensure that we are continuing to do everything within our power to make Wood County voter rolls as accurate as possible within the bounds of federal and state laws.”

St. Lucie Distortions

Another bogus bit is being spread about St. Lucie County, Fla.

Claim: In St. Lucie County, FL, there were 175,574 registered eligible voters but 247,713 votes were cast.

The National SEAL Museum, a polling location in St. Lucie County, FL had a 158% voter turnout.

It’s simply not true that there were tens of thousands more votes cast than voters available in St. Lucie County. Whoever first started this falsehood misread a St. Lucie election board document showing that 249,095 “cards” were cast, and registered voters totaled 175,554.

But the supervisor of elections website explains that a “card” is one page, and the full “ballot” contained two pages. Total cards are not double the number of voters, as not every voter cast both pages (or “cards”).

St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections website: Note* — Turnout percentages will show over 100% due to a two page ballot. The tabulation system (GEMS) provides voter turnout as equal to the total cards cast in the election divided by the number of registered voters. Also note that some voters chose not to return by mail the second card containing the amendments.

A more detailed document of the county’s votes cast shows total “votes” at 123,301.

The email author makes the same mistake with “cards” versus “ballots” in claiming that one St. Lucie County polling location, the National SEAL Museum, had a “158% voter turnout.” Not true. Of the jurisdiction’s 2,756 registered voters, 2,243 votes were cast, according to the Supervisor of Elections’ official results. A total of 4,469 “cards” were cast of the two-page ballot. Obama, by the way, got 33.62 percent of the vote at that polling location.

Viral Email Confusion

The email includes two bewildering statistics. It gets its voting numbers all wrong for Palm Beach.

Claim: Palm Beach County, FL had a 141% voter turnout.

According to the County Supervisor of Elections website, the turnout for the presidential election was 69.56 percent.

We’d guess that whoever wrote that line in the email might have grabbed the 141 percent figure from St. Lucie County — in comparing registered voters with the “cards” cast.

The email also says:

Claim: In Ohio County, Obama won by 108% of the total number of eligible voters.

Which “Ohio County” might that be? There’s one in Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana, for starters. But the 108 percent figure appears to be another misguided statistic from Wood County — in Ohio. The percentage can be derived by using the email’s bogus number for Election Day voters and its slightly off number for the county’s voting-age population. As we said, the email inflates voter turnout in Wood County by more than 40,000.

This is what happens when those with little-to-no regard for the facts spread falsehoods through email and the Internet.

Hitting a False Note

The email includes another completely made-up stat:

Claim: NOTE: Obama won in every state that did not require a Photo ID and lost in every state that did require a Photo ID in order to vote.

Not true. There are 11 states with some type of photo identification voting law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Obama won four of them.

It is true that some state laws are more strict than others, and Romney won the four states with the strictest laws: Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Indiana. They require a photo ID in order to vote. People without identification can cast a provisional ballot, which won’t be counted until a voter presents photo ID, generally within a few days after the election. (Indiana will count the provisional ballot if the voter signs an affidavit saying he or she doesn’t have photo ID because of poverty or a religious objection to being photographed.) It’s worth noting that Obama won Indiana in 2008, when the same photo ID law was in place.

The seven other states with some type of voter photo ID law are: Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Hawaii (all won by Obama) and South Dakota, Idaho, Louisiana (all won by Romney). Most of those states allow voters without photo identification to cast votes, if they sign an affidavit or confirm their identities in another way. Idaho, for instance, says that a voter without photo ID (such as a driver’s license, passport or student ID) can sign an affidavit that includes the voter’s name and address. Lying on the form is a felony: “Any person who knowingly provides false, erroneous or inaccurate information on such affidavit shall be guilty of a felony,” the state regulations say.

Florida uses signature matching to determine whether a provisional ballot — cast by those without photo ID — should be counted. “Your provisional ballot will count if the signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on your voter registration application,” says the state Division of Elections. In Hawaii, voters can vote if they give their date of birth and address, and that matches the information in the poll book.

An additional 19 states have laws requiring identification — but not photo IDs. Obama won seven of them.

Some Philadelphia Districts Don’t Like Romney

All told, this email purporting to show “astounding” evidence of “voter fraud” contains just a scant sliver of truth. The only correct claim is that some districts in Philadelphia recorded 100 percent of their votes for Obama — a stat that isn’t “a mathematical and statistical impossibility,” as the email claims, and isn’t all that surprising once the full context is known.

Claim: In 59 voting districts in the Philadelphia region, Obama received 100% of the votes with not even a single vote recorded for Romney. (A mathematical and statistical impossibility).

It’s not mathematically impossible. The 59 districts are in areas of the city that are mainly African American, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. And Obama received 93 percent of the black vote nationwide.

In 2008, Obama received 100 percent of the vote in 57 districts in Philadelphia. So it was not that unusual that something similar happened this time around. In fact, Inquirer reporters had a tough time tracking down any registered Republicans in these areas.

To be clear, these districts make up a small subset of all of Philadelphia. The 59 that went 100 percent for Obama in 2012 constitute 19,605 votes, just 3 percent of the total votes cast in the city.

— Lori Robertson, with Jesse DuBois

Sources

Burton, Terry, director of the Wood County, Ohio, Board of Elections. Email interview with FactCheck.org. 9 Jan 2013.

Wood County, Ohio. Official Results, Nov. 6, 2012, General Election. 27 Nov 2012.

Ohio Secretary of State. Elections & Voting. President and Vice President: November 6, 2012. Official Results. website accessed 16 Jan 2012.

Ohio Secretary of State. Elections & Voting. Historical Comparisons. website accessed 16 Jan 2012.

United States Census Bureau. State & County QuickFacts. Wood County, Ohio. Census.gov. accessed 15 Jan 2012.

St. Lucie County. Statement of Votes Cast. 2012 General Election, November 6, 2012. St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections website. 12 Nov 2012.

St. Lucie County. Statement of Votes Cast. 2012 General Election, November 6, 2012. St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections website. 10 Nov 2012.

St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections, Gertrude Walker. slcelections.com website. accessed 15 Jan 2012.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. General Election, results by precinct, 2012. pbcelections.org, accessed 15 Jan 2012.

National Conference of State Legislatures. Voter Identification Requirements. ncsl.org. accessed 15 Jan 2012.

2012 Presidential Election Results. washingtonpost.com. accessed 15 Jan 2012.

Florida Division of Elections. General Voting Information. 2012.

Hill, Miriam, et. al. “In 59 Philadelphia voting divisions, Mitt Romney got zero votes.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 31 Dec 2012.

Philadelphia County. Citywide Election Results. accessed 15 Jan 2013.