The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 28, 2013

Ashtabula County Board of Elections must hold public hearing on fraud complaint

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Thanks to a new directive from Columbus, a complaint from Geneva will be the subject of the Ashtabula County Board of Election’s first-ever election fraud public hearing.

A new requirement of the Secretary of State’s office mandates boards deal with alleged election fraud at a formal public hearing, not just their usual meetings. As a result, the matter of a Madison man who reportedly voted in Geneva last fall will be the subject of a hearing tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. March 5 at the election board office. The hearing is open to the public.

The directive was issued within the past few days, election board members learned at Wednesday’s meeting. The board may use its subpoena power to compel people to attend, and must also hire a stenographer to record the proceedings. The board will ask questions and, based on what they hear, could recommend the county prosecutor’s office investigate possible criminal charges.

Coincidentally, an allegation of possible fraud followed the new directive to Jefferson, board members were told. A worker assigned a precinct in Geneva claims a person she knows to live in Madison cast a ballot at her polling place in the general election. The situation grew more troubling to the worker over the weeks, finally spurring her to file a formal complaint, said Carol Lovas, director.

The new state regulation gives the election board a tight, 10-day window to act, prompting the hurry-up scheduling of the hearing.

Some board members questioned the need for a formal hearing, citing the expense the board must incur. In the past, the board handled fraud allegations in the exact same way — right down to referrals for criminal action — but minus all the formal trappings of a hearing.

“It’s total redundancy,” said member Charlie Frye.

Election directors will confer with the prosecutor’s office on whether subpoenas need to be sent the two participants.