Voter fraud allegations investigated

Monroe County volunteer had absentee ballots

The Indiana State Police responded to allegations that a Democratic Monroe County employee was found illegally holding overseas absentee ballots Tuesday.

Initial reports from The Associated Press stated that the FBI was conducting an investigation into the matter. County clerk Jim Fielder and Jack Schmit, a Republican Monroe County Election Board member, both said the FBI began an investigation, but Indiana State Police First Sgt. Dave Bursten said the FBI was never involved.

Wendy Osbourne, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, said she could not confirm or deny whether any investigations were being conducted. The FBI has jurisdiction over voter fraud allegations, she said.

"We can't confirm anything until it becomes public record and any arrests are made," Osbourne said.

Schmit, who is also an IU faculty member, said the Election Board determined the employee had a duplicate key, which she was not authorized to have, to a room in the Curry Building where the ballots were kept. Schmit said the FBI came and asked questions about the situation.

Schmit said the employee had about 19 or 20 ballots in her possession and the Election Board will consider them provisional ballots and will review them within the next 10 days.

Schmit said a team of Republicans and Democrats were working together Tuesday night to review the situation. He said the county had signed affidavits in their possession to verify the ballots that needed counted.

"The FBI and the state police confirmed that the

administrative process was in place," Schmit said.

Bursten said that the state police only made a preliminary inquiry into the situation, which they do "quite regularly."

"At this point, it's been agreed with the Republicans and the Democrats that they will more closely review the ballots that they feel may be an issue sometime tomorrow," Bursten said.

After conceding to Democratic challenger Baron Hill, 9th District Congressional incumbent Mike Sodrel commented on the situation, saying he did not believe the votes in question were enough to make a difference in the final outcome of the race, but that he believed it was important to "preserve democracy for the future of the nation." He added that "stuffing the ballot box" was not the way to do that.

Franklin Andrew, chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party, said the FBI contacted him Tuesday and told him about the situation.

"I think she should be ashamed of herself," Andrew said. "But we'll leave all that to the prosecutors, the FBI and the police."

Glenn Murphy, chairman of the Republican party in Clark County, where Sodrel's campaign waited for the results, said Clark County experienced similar problems Tuesday.

"That's what we've been finding in Clark County," Murphy said. "That's what we've been trying to protect against."

Schmit said the woman, who is a temporary employee, was reassigned to another job in the Curry Building after being found with the ballots.

--Staff writers Michael Reschke, Michael Sanserino and Brian Spegele contributed to this report from Bloomington. Staff writer Paige Ingram contributed from Jeffersonville, Ind.

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