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Board of Elections catches voter fraud

Elections director Matt Damschroder says the cards were turned into the board of elections by workers for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. Damschroder says the fraud appears to be extensive.

(We found) registrations for people who had already been registered to vote where the information was altered just slightly, a series of cards that were clearly completed and signed by the same people, Damschroder says. Registering folks from vacant lots and addresses that didn't exist. Even so far as to register people who are deceased.

Damschroder says he thinks the fraud was committed by a few rogue employees. Acorn spokeswoman Katy Gall agrees. Gall says ACORN contracts extra workers to help with voter registration drives, and pays them based on the amount of registrations they gather. Gall says a few employees got greedy and forged registration cards to receive more money. Gall says once acorn discovered the fraud, ACORN began working with the board of elections to expose the employees.

Realizing that there was a problem and a solution to the problem is something we've been working with them on, Gall says.

Gall says recently passed state legislation makes it harder for her organization to conduct internal checks because circulators must hand registration cards directly to local board of elections. But she admits the same bill allowed officials to trace the fraud because law requires a person being paid to register voters to sign and address those registration cards. The new rules have been criticized by some groups who claim the regulations are unnecessary and designed to suppress voting in urban minority neighborhoods. Gall declined comment on the names of the employees and how many committed fraud. The case now sits with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brian, who has yet to comment on the case. Voter registration fraud is a 5th degree punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.