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The Telegram
  • Neal Simon: A ‘pants-on-fire’ lie

  • Like Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster, myth and reality are colliding in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election.

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  • Like Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster, myth and reality are colliding in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election.
    One of the most popular conspiracy theories kicking around the internet is the claim that fraud played a large role in President Obama’s re-election victory over Gov. Mitt Romney. This has to be a fairly large fraud, as the president won the popular count by 4 million votes.
    According to Public Policy Polling, 49 percent of Republicans nationally say they think “ACORN stole the 2012 election for President Obama.” The biggest problem with this? ACORN is no longer in existence, and hasn’t been for quite some time.
    Oh well, on to a more insidious accusation sweeping through right-wing blogs and appearing in the comment section of several newspapers’ websites.
    The claim goes like this: “Of course Obama’s victory is illegitimate. In one county in Ohio, he won 108 percent of the vote. Obviously, this is evidence of fraud.”
    The problem with this claim? It is not even close to true.
    It appears that the claims are referencing Wood County, Ohio. A Nov. 9 posting on the blog frontpagemag.com says this: “In 2012, 106,258 people in Wood County are registered to vote out of an eligible 98,213 — Mr. Obama did indeed win Wood County, along with its 108 percent of voters.”
    Conspiracy theorists have taken that posting and run with it, never bothering to look up the readily-available data.
    The blog’s reference to the 98,213 number is the total number of voting-age residents in the county according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
    Why do the voter registration rolls show so many more registered voters than the number who are eligible to vote? Ohio Board of Elections Director Terry Burton told the Columbus Dispatch that the difference between the two numbers is “inactive voters” — people who no longer live or vote in the county (many are former students at Bowling Green University), but remain on the rolls. Federal law requires officials to keep inactive voters on their rolls for four years, unless there is documentation that they have died or moved away.
    Admittedly, Ohio is one of the worst in the nation at keeping its voter rolls up-to-date. Essentially, the registered voters number is meaningless. The more relevant number is “active voters,” and in Wood County, Ohio, that number is about 80,000.
    How many people actually voted in Wood County on Nov. 6? According to the county’s official website, the number is about 62,000. Far from the 108 percent that is being claimed. More comical, Obama’s total in Wood County — 31,000 votes, or 51 percent. You’ll notice that 51 percent is a great deal less than 108 percent.
    According to election officials, Wood County voter turnout on election day was 57 percent, far below the state average of 68 percent voter turnout on Nov. 6.
    Page 2 of 2 - For what it’s worth, the Columbus Dispatch gave the “Obama wins 108 percent in Ohio county” claim a “Pants-on-fire” rating for lies.
    By the way, there is one more county in Ohio where the total number of registered voters exceeds the voting-age population according to the U.S. Census — Lawrence County. Mitt Romney won Lawrence County with 57 percent of the vote. Fraud, anyone?
    Neal Simon is a staff writer for The Evening Tribune in Hornell, N.Y.

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