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Published: Wednesday, 8/18/2004

Voter registration card fraud suspected by elections board

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

A voter registration card suspected to be fraudulent and submitted to the Lucas County board of elections through Project Vote, a national nonprofit group whose workers are paid based on the number of registrations obtained, may be turned over to the county prosecutor.

The elections board will meet today to consider whether the registration card should be forwarded for possible criminal prosecution, and to officially certify the results of the Aug. 3 special election in which all local levy requests were rejected.

Paula Hicks-Hudson, elections board director, said she believes the registration is fraudulent based on an internal inquiry that determined the person named on the card did not fill out or sign a voter registration card.

Submitting a fraudulent voter registration to an elections board is a felony offense, Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. The individual who submitted the suspect card has been identified, but she would not name that person.

However, Ms. Hicks-Hudson said the card came to the elections board through Project Vote, which is working to register hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide before the Nov. 2 election. Ohio has become a hotbed of voter registration activity because it is seen as a key battleground state in the presidential election.

Project Vote's national director, David Leland, is a former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said this is not the first time her office has had trouble with the group.

"We did another training with them last week," she said. "We wanted the board to know that we've got a problem here. I promised [Project Vote] that if we got more stuff like this, we would refer them to the prosecutor."

The elections director said the problem is magnified because there are so many groups out collecting voter registrations and submitting them to the county elections board.

"We are getting bombarded," Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. "We are getting a thousand or more a week from the various groups."

She said that everyone who has signed up as a new voter, either on their own or through one of these door-to-door groups, should receive a new voter registration card from the elections office by Labor Day.

If a new registrant has not received a voter card by then, she said they should call the elections office to confirm their registration made it there. This is important, she said, because groups don't always follow through in turning in every registration they collect.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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