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Husted: System worked

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted cited the checks and balances in the system that caught what he termed “suspicious activity” as the reason a special grand jury did not return any indictments in an almost two-year-old absentee ballot investigation.

On Monday a special grand jury called by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine met to determine if there was any illegal activity in the November 2010 general election in Lawrence County. The jury met all day but did not return any bills of indictment.

In his statement Tuesday Husted vowed to protect all citizens right to vote.

“While this particular grand jury found no actual fraud due to the fact that the process caught the suspicious activity early, let me assure you, this office will continue to aggressively pursue all fraud attempts from registration to casting a ballot and anywhere in between,” he said.

DeWine also addressed the grand jury results in a statement emailed to reporters.

“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.”

In January 2011 Husted took over the investigation into alleged absentee ballot fraud from his predecessor Jennifer Brunner. That July he turned over the results of his investigation into the allegations to DeWine, who repeatedly sent investigators to the county to interview voters.

“Incidents of voter fraud erode the confidence and integrity of our elections system, which is why we take any allegations very seriously,” Husted said through his spokesman Matt McClellan on Tuesday. “In Lawrence County, our office was made aware of concerns by local elections officials, looked into the matter and referred the issue to the local prosecutor and attorney general’s office.”

Husted’s investigation focused on 77 applications for absentee ballots that were sent to two post office boxes in the county — one in Ironton and the second in Chesapeake. More than half of them were allegedly hand-delivered to the board of elections by a single individual, according to Husted’s letter to DeWine turning over the investigation.

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.