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Ashtabula County Board of Elections is on the prowl

July 17,2016 15:17

JEFFERSON — As the presidential election gets closer, the Ashtabula County Board of Elections is dealing with suspected voter-related mischief. Over the past few months, the election board has learned that people are trying to register as a voter at ...



JEFFERSON — As the presidential election gets closer, the Ashtabula County Board of Elections is dealing with suspected voter-related mischief.Over the past few months, the election board has learned that people are trying to register as a voter at false addresses, said Carol Lovas, director. Three separate cases have come to the board's attention this year, the latest occurring last month in Orwell, she said.At issue are people who apparently are giving fake addresses when registering to vote at agencies outside the election board office, such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Lovas said. 
The outside locales send along to the election board the names and addresses of people they have registered, and the board sends an acknowledgment card that lists the new voter's polling place and precinct."Basically, we're verifying you live there," Lovas said.The election board learns there's a conflict when people living at the address, and have been casting a ballot for years, ask why they were mailed a notice bearing someone else's name, Lovas said. That was the case last month, when the board sent an acknowledgement notice to an Orwell address. A puzzled couple living at the address went to the election office and the discrepancy was discovered.When cases occur, the election board traditionally votes to forward the information to the county prosecutor's office, which in turn asks the sheriff's department to investigate, Lovas said.While three cases have surfaced this year, many more may be active because people failed to see the acknowledgement as a big red flag, Lovas said. Long-time voters who receive such a notice should contact the election board, she said."Some people throw (the card) away," Lovas said. "Don't throw it away. They need to contact us."The people who did approach the board were motivated in part by fears that an identity crook may be at work, Lovas said. "It's making people quite nervous," she said.Lovas has a feeling some election hanky-panky may be to blame. "It's very rare, but in presidential elections things happen," she said.Sheriff William Johnson said his department is checking into the cases, but finding the would-be voters is difficult when there are no solid addresses in play, he said."We don't know where they're living at right now," he said.To date, the problem is not severe, Johnson said.
"There's not that many," he said. "If (the votes) had altered the results of an election, that's one thing — but they're not," he said. "If these people are voting, that's one thing — but they're not. There's nothing major at this point."Investigations are continuing, however, Johnson said.County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said vote-related crime can take on a number of appearances."Voter fraud encompasses a number of different scenarios, and whether a crime is committed is dependent upon the facts of each case," Iarocci said in response to an email message. "The degree of crime is further dependent upon the facts associated with each case."Diligent precinct officials are making sure suspicious ballots don't enter the system, Lovas said. For example, workers are instructed to pay very close attention to the signature provided on Election Day compared to the signature on record, she said."We're very conscientious," Lovas said. 

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