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Possible Absentee Ballot Fraud in Franklin County

Investigation of possible absentee ballot fraud has expanded into Franklin County.

Seven absentee ballot requests were turned over to the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office for investigation of possible fraud. The ballots were handed in at the Franklin County Board of Elections. The board's director, Michael Stinziano, says the ballots appear to have been filled out by one person.

"We're not handwriting experts but we are required to do some handwriting analysis. And based on the pen, the print and the misinformation that's consistent on the applications there seems to be similarities," Stinziano said.

The Franklin County investigation is similar to an inquiry in Hamilton County where possible ballot fraud has also surfaced. A pro-casino issue group was raided after information on dozens of absentee ballot request forms failed to match election board records. Issue Three would allow casinos in four Ohio cities including Columbus.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the signatures on the Cincinnati applications are similar to those on the ones submitted in Franklin County. But he doubts there's a link.

"I don't believe there's any evidence that it is the same person other than the conversation with the people in Cincinnati that the signatures appear to be or the writing appears to be similar," O'Brien said.

Elections officials say they will try to determine if the people whose names are on the questionable applications actually filled them out. If it turns out the applications were falsified, O'Brien said the Cincinnati suspect could be asked to provide a writing sample.

"So that an expert can do a comparison of the known handwriting of the suspect with the fraudulent handwriting on the absentee ballot request," he said.

While the Hamilton County case has been connected to the pro-casino group Ohio Jobs and Growth, Stinziano said the possible fraud in Franklin County has not been linked to any issue or campaign.

"They're on the Secretary of State's form. So there's no other indication on the form itself either who turned these in," Stinziano said.

O'Brien said turning in false documents to the board of elections is a fifth degree felony. It's punishable by up to one year in prison for each falsified application.