JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County's Board of Elections will convene a formal hearing Friday morning regarding a suspected case of voter fraud in last month's general election.

The 10 a.m. hearing at the board office in Jefferson will feature sworn testimony recorded by a stenographer, said Carol Lovas, election board director.

At issue is a voter who sent an absentee ballot to the election board listing a Pierpont address. Three precinct election officials who are familiar with all the registered voters in Pierpont noticed a possible discrepancy and are challenging the residency claim, Lovas said.

Some checking done by the board indicates the voter — who apparently owns property in Pierpont — actually lives in Pennsylvania and also voted there last month, Lovas said.

Board members requested a hearing to learn more about the situation, Lovas said. Notices were mailed Friday morning to the parties involved — including the voter — notifying them of the hearing.

Based on information gleaned from the hearing, board members could deal with the matter themselves or involve the Ashtabula County prosecutor's office, Lovas said.

Precinct officials are provided lists of people who have voted absentee in case someone who cast a ballot early tries to vote again at their polling place on Election Day, Lovas said.

"(Workers) have to know so they don't let them vote (again) at the polls," she said.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci, in response to an email question, said Monday he believes a section of state law pertaining to voter fraud "applies in the case before the board of elections." 

Those who violate the section are guilty of a fourth-degree felony, which could be punishable by a prison term of 6-18 months, Iarocci said. Jail time is not mandatory for offenders, meaning they could instead be sentenced to probation or community control.

The challenge brought by the precinct workers has been the only formal complaint in an otherwise uneventful election, Lovas said. 

"Basically it was a good election," she said.

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