The top petition on the White House's " We the People" website is, as has been widely reported, a request to let the state of Texas peacefully secede from the Union and form its own government. But the second most popular petition at the moment (just edging out an appeal to legalize marijuana) is a call to "recount the election!" on the grounds that Obama benefited from voter fraud in Ohio. (Spoiler alert: He didn't.)
Here's the argument in the petition, which as of this writing has nearly 63,000 signatures:
It has become blatantly obvious the voter fraud that was committed during the 2012 Presidential elections. In one county alone in Ohio, which was a battleground state, President Obama received 106,258 votes...but there were only 98,213 eligible voters. It's not humanly possible to get 108% of the vote!
If ID laws had been enforced (which the administration is completely against because that meant they would lose) then this wouldn't be an issue.
Well that would certainly be something, wouldn't it? If only there was some sort of independent ability to check the facts in the petition. Enter PolitiFact.com's Ohio branch, which does a typically hyperthorough job of dismantling the assertion. They trace the rumor to a blog post identifying Wood County, Ohio as the location of the 108 percent voter turnout. It seems that Wood County is home to Bowling Green college, which goes a long way toward accounting for the discrepancy between the Census-determined voting age population (98,213) and the number of registered voters (106,258 in September, 108,014 in November): Students aren't necessarily counted in the census and are also naturally transient meaning that there are a large number of inactive voters on the rolls (there are apparently a little more than 80,000 active voters in Wood County).
For the record, President Obama won 31,596 votes out of 62,338 cast in the county, around 51 percent. "The petition's claim that Obama somehow managed to collect that many votes is not only demonstrably false, it's ridiculous," PolitiFact concludes before awarding the petition its coveted "Pants on Fire" rating.
I rather like the idea behind the "We the People" website, though this once again shows the limitation inherent in such exercises of direct democracy: There's no threshold of credibility or civic awareness. My colleague Elizabeth Flock provides another example over at Washington Whispers—a petition calling for Obama's impeachment … when the executive branch doesn't have that power.
Oh and one other thing for the conspiracy theorists to ponder: Even if Romney had won Ohio, Obama would still have won the election.
- Read Brad Bannon: Republicans Can't Face Post-Election Reality
- Read Peter Fenn: Don't Get Cocky, Democrats, the GOP's Not Dead Yet
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.