Political activist WilliAnn Moore on Wednesday defended her efforts to deliver votes from the regional jail at Stryker to Toledo, even as a Republican member of the elections board renewed his request for an investigation.
Ms. Moore said she delivered 19 absentee voter ballots from inmates at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio to the Lucas County Board of Elections, but said she did not know it was illegal.
State law prohibits anyone but the voter or a relative from hand-delivering an absentee ballot.
"I did everything I possibly could for those young men's and women's votes to be counted," said Ms. Moore, who is the Ohio NAACP coordinator for northwest Ohio and past president of the Toledo chapter of the NAACP. "These people are allowed to vote, they have the right to vote." She said the board of elections needs to figure out a way to get the inmates' votes back from the regional jail.
On Tuesday the elections board disqualified the 19 ballots from the jail inmates on the advice of the Ohio Secretary of State's office. Jon Stainbrook, a Republican member of the four-person elections board and chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said the case should be reviewed for possible illegalities and for possible referral to the prosecutor's office. He said, ironically, it was Ms. Moore who disenfranchised the CCNO voters.
"The people that voted I'd like to know how they feel. Do they know their votes weren’t counted?" Mr. Stainbrook said. "There are voters that were disenfranchised by this action, because the chain of custody was basically violated."
"If it was the Republican Tea Party registering people to vote and then getting their ballot and driving it into the board of elections those would not be counted either," Mr. Stainbrook said.
He said his understanding is that Dan DeAngelis, the Democratic deputy director of the elections board, told Ms. Moore that she could not personally deliver the ballots. Mr. DeAngelis could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Ron Rothenbuhler, chairman of the elections board and chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said he never told Ms. Moore she couldn't deliver the ballots, and he doesn't believe she intentionally did anything illegal. He doesn't think an investigation is required. He said Ms. Moore's delivery of the ballots was not a secret.
"I'm not in favor of an investigation when there was nothing to hide and we didn't count them," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.
Ms. Moore pointed out inmates at Stryker who are misdemeanor offenders or who are awaiting trial still have the right to vote. She said she drove out to the jail, 60 miles from Toledo, to register a number of inmates, possibly 50 or 60, and told them they could request an absentee voter ballot, which would be mailed to them.
"We went cell to cell, or pod to pod," Ms. Moore said.
She then later called the jail about getting the ballots returned and was told the institution would not pay the postage, which was $1.30, and she wasn't allowed to provide money to pay for the postage either. She asked if she could then pick up the ballots, so the jail collected the ballot envelopes and had them ready for her at an appointed time.
Ms. Moore said all the ballot envelopes were sealed, so there was no question of them being tampered with.
The Blade was not able to reach a spokesman for the jail, which serves Lucas and other counties in northwest Ohio.
She said the elections board should have sent someone to the jail to pick up the ballots. State law requires county boards of election to provide bipartisan teams — a Democrat and a Republican — to pick up ballots from people who are institutionalized in the county, but does not require them to go out of county to pick up the ballots.
Asked why the inmates, if voting was important to them, didn't buy their own postage to pay for the return mail, she said some are indigent and can't afford it.
"Some of them don't have $1.30 on their books," Ms. Moore said.
Ms. Moore said she didn't know that it was illegal for her to hand-deliver the ballots.
"I said what is the law so that I will know so that the work that I have put into this for these people to have the right to vote, their votes will be counted. Nobody told me their relatives had to go and pick them up," Ms. Moore said. "Those families couldn't go pick them up anyway. You're talking about poor people and hardship on people."
Ms. Moore said she took state Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) with her when she went to register voters at CCNO. She said the effort was not on behalf of Democratic candidates, such as President Barack Obama. Ms. Brown could not be reached for comment Wednesday
"I'm not trying to tell anybody how to vote," she said.
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.