No indictments come from AG grand jury

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Panel was looking into voter fraud allegations


A special grand jury called by the Ohio Attorney General has returned no indictments following a 13-month investigation into allegations of voter fraud, according to the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office.

In July 2011 Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office was asked by the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to look into allegations that a group of Democrats had attempted voter fraud in the November 2010 general election.

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On Monday the grand jury convened for a day-long session after subpoenaing 14 witnesses. They were 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 were 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 to DeWine.

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 to DeWine turning the probe over to him that there could be several possible elections law violations.

“There was an attempt to violate the election law with the attempt to cast and count fraudulent votes,” he said then in an interview with The Tribune. “If we didn’t believe there were irregularities that amounted to a violation of law we would not have referred it to the attorney general and the county prosecutor.”

A call to the secretary of state’s office seeking comment from Husted was not returned as of press time.