16 October 2014

Did a right-wing election observer falsify election forms? The Columbus Free Press has learned that the Franklin County Board of Elections will consider referring an election observer affiliated with the voter suppression organization True the Vote for criminal prosecution. The special meeting is scheduled Thursday, June 6, 2013.

Prior to the 2012 presidential election in Columbus, True the Vote filed an application with the Franklin County Board of Elections to monitor polling places in the inner city. This application required signatures from local candidates on the ballot in the county or county political party officials to be valid.

The Franklin County Board of Elections determined that up to six of the signatures on the True the Vote application were probably forged. This type of political forgery is a fourth degree felony under Ohio law and carrying a penalty of up to 18 months of jail.

True the Vote started as an offshoot of the King Street Patriots, a Tea Party organization primarily active in Texas. True the Vote focuses on so-called “voter fraud” prevention. Their slogan is: “If you see something at the polls that just doesn’t seem right, record it.”

The organization was targeting Columbus inner city precincts with high percentage of African American voters.

The Franklin County Board of Elections learned of the allegations on Election Day 2012 and has delayed their consideration of the matter since that time. The recent resurrection of the case was prompted in part by the referral of 90 cases of alleged “vote fraud” to the office of Republican County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien on Tuesday, June 4.

The Board of Elections split along party lines with both Republican board member Doug Preisse and Brad Sinnott voting for criminal referral while Democratic board members Zach Manifold and Kimberly Marinello abstaining and complaining that they had had no time to investigate the 90 charges.

In an Board of Elections statement following the criminal referral of the 90 cases, it states: “The cases involve individuals who voted absentee both by mail and in-person at the county’s early vote center or at their local polling place on Election Day.”

William A. Anthony, Franklin County Board of Elections Director, told the Free Press that not one of the voters was able to vote twice and that the procedures put in place by the Board of Election are designed to eliminate just such potential double voting. “It’s considered the correct procedure if you think your absentee ballot has been lost or not cast to vote provisionally. It allows the Board of Elections to check for your absentee ballot before counting the provisional ballots.”

Under Ohio law provisional ballots aren’t counted until 10 days after Election Day. The absentee ballots are counted first and compared against provisional ballots to prevent voters from voting twice. Nearly 575,000 voters cast ballots in Franklin County in November 2012.

Republican Deputy Director of the Board of Elections Dana Walsh prepared the report on the so-called voter fraud. The Republican Party has been pressing the issure of “voter fraud” in Ohio since the 2004 election. Election integrity activists, including the Free Press, have stressed that the lack of transparency in the voting process is the real problem in Ohio’s controversial presidential elections. Ohio election officials allows private, partisan for-profit companies to secretly program its central tabulators and e-voting machines.

In 2004, another voter suppression group based in Texas, the Mightly Texas Strike Force, organized by Karl Rove, was accused in a police report of voter intimidation in Columbus, Ohio. No action was taken in that case.

Election rights activists see True the Vote as a historical continuation of massive voter suppression dating back to the Jim Crow era and emanating from former Confederate states like Texas.