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Associated Press
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted briefs reporters on election night at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio elections chief: 17 noncitizens voted in 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Seventeen noncitizens voted illegally in battleground Ohio in the 2012 presidential election year, and an additional 274 were registered but did not vote, the state's elections chief said Wednesday.

Secretary of State Jon Husted said he was able to identify non-U.S. citizens on Ohio's voter rolls for the first time through the matching of voter records and license and ID information kept by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

"None of my predecessors attempted to investigate or answer the noncitizen question because they couldn't," he said at a news conference. "Information about citizenship (kept by the bureau) and the elections system were not designed to work together."

Husted emphasized that none of the identified cases involved immigrants who were in the country illegally. In the most egregious case, a noncitizen who was in the country legally had been voting in Ohio — which is against the law — since 1993.

Results of the review will be turned over to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for possible prosecution. Husted said he also will give those identified the chance to cancel their registrations.

He said the review confirmed earlier indications that voter fraud exists but is rare.

In the wake of the findings, Husted urged passage of a bill before fellow Republicans in the state Legislature that would allow online voter registration.

A message seeking comment was left with a spokesman for the Ohio Senate, where a bill introduced in August remains in committee.

Online voter registration would help avoid future instances of noncitizens voting, Husted said. He also has backed such a system as a way to improve voter access and save the state money.

He said Wednesday that a driver's license number provided at the time of registration could quickly be matched to Bureau of Motor Vehicles records to check citizenship status.

Online registration was part of an election bill in 2011 but was later repealed. Ohio residents can't register online to vote, but under changes Husted made last year they can update their addresses.