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UPDATE: No Indictments in Voter Fraud Investigation in Lawrence County, Ohio

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 8/7/12 @ 3:30 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- An investigation into possible voter fraud in Lawrence County, Ohio has concluded with no indictments.

Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday afternoon that a Lawrence County Grand Jury has returned a "no bill" on five different defendants in an absentee ballot application case from 2010.

That grand jury considered the case on Monday.

Last year, WSAZ.com reported that the probe involved current and former elected officials, as well as some prominent political party members.

The allegations involved absentee ballot applications and post office boxes. In the fall of 2010, the Board of Elections director saw a red flag with a request that more than 100 voter absentee ballot applications be sent to two post office boxes, one box in Ironton and another in Proctorville.

The boxes did not belong to any of the voters requesting those ballots.

"We take allegations of voter fraud very seriously. Whenever there are allegations made of potential violations of Ohio elections law, I am prepared to engage the full resources of my office to investigate. In this case the Grand Jury found that there was no voter disenfranchisement, bribery, or coercion," said Dewine

Secretary of State Jon Husted released the following statement Tuesday: "Incidents of voter fraud erode the confidence and integrity of our elections system, which is why we take any allegations very seriously."

Husted said, "Let me assure you, this office will continue to aggressively pursue all fraud attempt from registration to casting a ballot and anywhere in between."



ORIGINAL STORY 7/6/11
IRONTON,Ohio (WSAZ) -- In Ohio, a Secretary of State investigation into possible local voter fraud may lead to a felony criminal case.

The probe involves current and former elected officials, as well as some prominent political party members.

The investigation is centered in Lawrence County, Ohio.

It involves absentee ballot applications and post office boxes. In the fall of 2010, the Board of Elections director saw a red flag with a request that more than 100 voter absentee ballot applications be sent to two post office boxes.

The boxes did not belong to any of the voters requesting those ballots.

No charges have been filed yet, but the Secretary of State says felony cases are warranted.

Lawrence County Board of Elections Director Catherine Overbeck says while most voters handle their balloting themselves, many candidates and party partisans do legally help some voters out.

Overbeck says that happens in a big election year when they go out and visit voters. She says it's part of the political process to deliver blank applications.

But in the fall of 2010, Overbeck discovered a number of absentee ballot applications going to two post office boxes, one box in Ironton and another in Proctorville.

The handwriting on the "send ballot to" portion was different than the voters' name lines. Overbeck says this suggested that the "send to" portion was improperly completed after the voter filled in their form.

“I would think that whoever wanted their ballot sent to that address would have filled out both portions at one time," she said. "This sent out red flags for me.”

The Board of Elections contacted more than 10 voters involved in the post office box question, and they all said they wanted their ballots sent to their home address, not a post office box.

The Secretary of State says testimony shows county Treasurer Steven Burcham was involved in false representation.

Burcham declined an on-camera interview, but says he helped drop off some applications, doing nothing wrong.

Former county Commissioner Doug Malone denies testimony that he possessed any absentee applications or ballots involving a post office box.

Sheriff's candidate and former local police Chief Russell Bennett’s name is on many of the forms. His wife said he was sick and did not need to be bothered.

Other members of the Lawrence County Democratic party are named as possible election law violators.

The investigation is now in the hands of the Attorney General and county Prosecutor J.B. Collier, who has first refusal on filing felony charges.

Collier said when he gets the report; he'll investigate and decide whether to take the case to a grand jury. There's no timetable for that decision.


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