Possible Ohio voter fraud investigation heats up

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Elections officials in southwestern Ohio's Hamilton County will issue more than two dozen subpoenas as an investigation into possible voter fraud during November's election heats up.

By a unanimous vote, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports (http://cin.ci/11pnfXF) that the four-member Hamilton County Board of Elections on Tuesday decided to issue 28 subpoenas and set two hearings later this month. The hearings will be a final opportunity for voters to provide explanations before the cases are turned over to prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

The cases include a woman whose absentee ballot was sent to her several days after she died, a Florida resident who tried to use her old Cincinnati-area address to vote in Hamilton County and a woman who ran into a problem voting on Election Day because someone had apparently already cast a ballot in her name.

In what officials say is the most troubling case, a longtime poll worker from Madisonville apparently voted twice and may have had a hand in falsifying other votes.

Investigators found that the woman cast an absentee ballot, voted at the polls under her own name, and cast an absentee ballot under her granddaughter's name. Investigators also found that three other absentee requests in the names of men also came from the woman's address, meaning she could have cast a total of six ballots.

All three of those requests were received by the elections board on Oct. 25, the same date as the woman's absentee request. All three ballots were returned to the board on Nov. 1, the same date that the woman's absentee vote was returned. And the investigative report also concludes that, "Handwriting on all documents is similar."

The poll's presiding judge later told officials that the poll worker in question "was disruptive and hid things from the workers on Election Day," according to an elections board report.

The poll worker was fired and could face charges.

Another case concerns an absentee vote purportedly cast by a 75-year-old woman who died several days before the ballot was even mailed to her home in Loveland.

The woman died Oct. 1, but the elections board on Oct. 11 received a signed absentee ballot in her name dated Sept. 29.

What makes that timetable impossible -- and legally problematic -- is that her ballot was among roughly 60,000 absentee ballots countywide that were not mailed to voters until Oct. 5.

"There's no way this person voted that ballot," said elections board member Alex Triantafilou. "On its face, it looks like the husband voted for the deceased wife."

The husband also cast an absentee ballot, in an envelope also signed and dated Sept. 29.

That was one of two cases in which a voter's pre-election death raised questions. In the other, however, the vote counted, because the 67-year-old Springfield Township man died on Oct. 5, only hours after casting his absentee ballot in person at the elections board downtown.

The last vote fraud prosecution in Hamilton County is believed to have occurred in 2008.

Across Ohio, only "a relative handful" of cases from 2012 currently are being examined by county officials, according to a spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted.

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Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com