COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – Columbiana County Board of Elections Director Adam Booth said his staff first discovered voter registration irregularities in mid-September, when a voter registration form had been turned in bearing the name of someone who was deceased.
“A little while later, she brought in another one. She said, ‘This is another one that’s in the system as deceased.’ And then a third, and then a fourth, and then a fifth,” Booth said.
Booth said all of the forms were collected by an employee of a community action group known as the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, adding it was not just a simple case of writing someone another person’s name.
“It was concerted, and you had to have good data, you know, for the drivers’ license to match, and the date of birth to match, and the address, their middle initial,” he said.
Booth said that was not the only problem that the Board of Elections noticed. He said nearly two dozen other forms had irregularities with the signatures.
“Where the signatures are just way off, or people are, like misspelling their own first name,” he said.
The forms were initially turned in to the Mahoning County Board of Elections, included among more than 500 coming from Columbiana County residents.
Tom McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, said the amount of irregularities raised some red flags.
We did find some improper registrations that we turned over to the Sheriff’s Department for investigation,” McCabe said.
A statement from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative indicates the unnamed canvasser no longer works for the agency, and her immediate supervisor is now on leave. The statement adds officials are taking the allegations seriously and are committed to resolving them.
Meanwhile Ohio Secretary of State John Husted is warning all election officials to be watching for more registration forms from the Collaborative. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations has also joined the investigation.
“Becoming a registered voter in Ohio is not a complicated process – you have to be a resident, provide accurate and up-to-date information and obviously still be alive,” Secretary Husted said via the statement. “Anytime we receive reports that invalid, and fraudulent voter registrations are being submitted, we take it seriously and will work to ensure those individuals or groups responsible are held accountable.”
The advisory reminds elections officials that state law prohibits knowingly helping an unqualified person register to vote, completing false registration forms and signing another person’s name to a voter registration form. The Secretary also reminds boards of their responsibility to investigate all suspicious registrations in accordance with Ohio law.
Secretary Husted encouraged boards of elections to consult with their county prosecutor should any suspicious registrations be submitted and to notify the Secretary of State’s Office if a registration is referred for prosecution.