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14 witnesses subpoenaed for special AG grand jury

Absentee ballot fraud likely the focus

 

Thirteen months after the Ohio Attorney General was asked to investigate if a group of Democrats attempted voter fraud in the 2010 general election, the county Democrat Party chief and current and former Democrat officeholders are among those who have been subpoenaed to provide information to a special grand jury Monday.

There have been no charges filed against anyone and no formal accusations have been made. The majority of those subpoenaed were not the object of the state investigation.

Some of those subpoenaed were named in a July 2011 letter by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to state attorney general Mike DeWine and County Prosecutor J.B. Collier asking for the investigation. At that time Collier asked DeWine’s office to take over the probe.

Others are employees of the Lawrence County Board of Elections during the November 2010 election or hold offices in the county Democratic Party.

The grand jury was called at the request of the state attorney general’s office, according to Assistant Prosecutor Brigham Anderson, who could not confirm the specific reason for the request. The topic of any grand jury is secret, as is the testimony given, he said.

Fourteen individuals were served subpoenas this week by Lawrence County deputies, according to Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

They are Craig Allen, Democrat Party chair, Eric Bradshaw, former deputy director of the board of elections; County Treasurer Stephen Burcham and his wife, Deborah; former County Commissioner Doug Malone; Catherine Overbeck, current director of the BOE; Donald Simmons, Democrat Party vice chair; Mark McCown, Democrat Party secretary; Karen Simmons, former chair of the BOE; Christina Smith, a part-time elections board employee; Patricia Coburn, a full-time elections board employee; Russell Bennett, Charles Maynard and William “Butch” Singer.

At issue are applications for absentee ballots that were sent to two post office boxes — 42 were sent to a box in the name of Ironton resident Charles Maynard and 77 were sent to a box in the name of Russell Bennett of Chesapeake during the fall of 2010.

“Of the 77 absentee ballot applications marked to be sent to Russ Bennett’s PO Box, 68 reportedly were hand-delivered to the Lawrence County Board of Elections office by a man named Butch Singer,” according to Husted’s letter.

In October a board of elections employee noticed that the handwriting in the “Send Ballot To” portion of the applications differed from that in the section with the voter’s name. The board then contacted 10 voters to see where they wanted their ballot sent.

All contacted said they wanted their ballots mailed to their home.

“(That suggests) that the ‘Send Ballot To’ portion of the absentee ballot application was completed after the voters filled in their application form,” the letter stated.

Then Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, began an investigation into the ballots forwarding it onto Husted, a Republican, when he took office in January.

Husted continued the investigation sending representatives to take affidavits from county residents. From that investigation he said in his letter there could be several possible elections law violations.