It is hard to imagine, but 81 people in Hamilton County managed to cast more than one ballot in the Nov. 6 election.
That’s not a lot when you are talking about a county election where 419,076 valid votes were cast – about 0.2 percent of the total, not enough to change the outcome of any race or ballot issue – but, if there was intent to commit voter fraud, it is a crime – a fourth degree felony.
And each and every one of them involved the casting of provisional ballots.
There may be innocent explanations for many of those 81 – board of elections chairman Tim Burke, who is also chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, told the Enquirer last week that there have been a number of cases in recent elections where elderly voters mailed in absentee ballots and then showed up at their polling places on election day and ended up casting provisional ballots because the precinct records showed they had already voted absentee.
None of those 81 were among the 13,771 provisional ballots accepted as valid by the board of elections last week, out of a total of 18,256.
But the board of elections is going to investigate those 81 cases; and, if there is reason to believe fraud was committed, those cases will be referred to the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office for possible criminal prosecution.
“I’m not saying anyone was trying to steal the election; we lost fair and square,’’ Alex Triantafilou, the Hamilton County Republican Party chairman and elections board member told WVXU. “But 81 is not an insignificant number. This is not five or 10 cases. We need to get to the bottom of this.”
The majority of these 81 – 63 to be exact were voters who sent in an absentee ballot by mail and then cast a provisional ballot at the polls on election day. The other 18 managed to vote twice on Nov. 6 – once by casting a regular ballot in one precinct and again by casting a provisional ballot in another.
Those 18 may have some explaining to do.
“That is something I am concerned about,’’ Caleb Faux, the executive director of the county Democratic party and an elections board member, told WVXU.
There might be an innocent explanation for those too, Faux said.
“There are some voters who are still confused about where they should vote and they may have voted twice just to make sure,’’ Faux said.
Of the 63 who voted by absentee and then cast provisional ballots on election day, Faux said, “there may have been some people who were concerned that their absentee ballots didn’t arrive in time so they voted provisional to make sure.”
There have been a handful of double-voting cases referred to the prosecutor in the past, Faux said, “and nothing much has come of it. You have to establish intent to commit fraud, and that is difficult.”
This is not a rap on provisional voting in and of itself. The vast majority – about 75 percent – were accepted by the Hamilton County elections board last week as being legitimate.
Of the 4,485 which were rejected, the vast majority were because the voters were not registered to vote (1,976) or voted in the wrong precinct or polling location (1,928).
Hamilton County Board of Elections officials will investigate all 81, interviewing the people and will make recommendations to the board on whether or not they think fraud occurred. The process, board members said, will take some time.
The bad news is that 81 people in Hamilton County managed to cast two ballots in the same election.
The good news is that the board had a system in place that raised red flags on all 81 of them.