A pair of Union County residents has been charged with voting violations after state and federal officials claimed the men are not United States citizens.
The Union County Grand Jury has indicted Troy Groehl and Mohamed Ahmed on unrelated charges.
Ahmed, 24, of 9565 Pinewood Court, Plain City, is charged with one count of false voter registration.
Groehl, 54, of 22475 Holycross Epps Road, Marysville, is charged with four counts of illegal voting.
“We were alerted by the Secretary of State,” said Union County Prosecuting Attorney Dave Phillips. “The allegation is that these men are not U.S. citizens, but they registered to vote, Mr. Ahmed allegedly signed a petition, and in Mr. Groehl allegedly actually voted quite a bit.”
Phillips said he does not know what triggered the Secretary of State investigation.
Brandon Clay, deputy director of the Union County Board of Elections, said illegal voting undermines the integrity of the American process.
“People who are not eligible to vote, should not be voting,” Clay said.
Phillips said that foreign interference has gotten a lot of attention lately. He said the local allegations do not rise to the level of others in the news, but the issues are the same.
“The process is that those who have citizenship here get to vote here and decide what kind of government we are going to have and who our leaders are going to be,” Phillips said. “Citizenship here is extraordinarily important to the voting process.”
Clay said anyone registering to vote must confirm they are both a U.S. citizen and 18 years old or older.
Clay said the state “really takes the lead” in verifying voter registration information.
He said in the past the verification process was more cumbersome but beginning about 2001, the state began keeping a statewide voter registration database. He said information submitted as part of the registration process was compared to information from the state department of motor vehicles and the federal Social Security Administration.
“If information is mismatched, we get notification of that,” Clay said.
He explained that the voter’s registration is put on hold. The voter is given an opportunity to review their information to make sure there is no mistake. The state also runs a check of the voters’ citizenship.
“When someone registers with us, and says they are a citizen, we take that at face value and do the registration, but we do submit the information to the state,” Clay said.
He added that, “as far as any other checks that would be going on at the county level, we don’t have any other checks available to us.”
Clay said Groehl registered to vote in 1997 and listed his birthplace as a city in Ontario, Canada. Clay said he couldn’t see the box where Groehl would have marked that he is a citizen.
“Starting in 2001, it looks like he has voted in pretty much every election until 2016,” Clay said.
Phillips said there is a six-year statute of limitations on illegal voting, which is why Groehl is only charged to 2012.
Clay said Ahmed never voted in Union County, though he did mark that he was a U.S. citizen. He said Ahmed did sign a marijuana-related initiative petition.
If convicted on all charges, Groehl could face as many as six years in prison. Ahmed could face 12 months in prison if convicted.
Phillips said that even if the men are convicted, they likely will not be kicked out of the country. He said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement often looks at violent offenders as well as dangers to society.
“I don’t think this will rise to the level that will trigger deportation,” Phillips said.
The prosecutor added, “They may be living here legally, but not be citizens.”
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