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CINCINNATI - Victoria Reeves appeared a bit uncomfortable Friday seated before the four members of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
They wanted to know why she cast two ballots in the 2012 General Elections -- one absentee from home and one provisional at her Silverton polling place.
"Do you know that it's illegal and improper to vote twice?" asked Republican board member Alex Triantafilou.
"No, I didn't know that," Reeves replied.
Triantafilou followed up by asking, "You thought you could vote twice?"
"Yeah," said Reeves.
Reeves said she didn't remember receiving, filling out or mailing an absentee ballot.
However, when she went to her polling place, workers pointed out that an absentee ballot had been received. She said she was getting ready to leave when a poll worker told her she could fill out a provisional ballot.
"I can't vote twice," she recalled saying. "Isn't that illegal?"
"That's not illegal," Reeves recalled the man replying. "You can vote again if you want."
A total of 79 Hamilton County residents have been questioned about potential voting problems in the 2012 General Election. Sixty of those cases were resolved when board members received a satisfactory explanation.
Nineteen cases were set for hearings on Feb. 15 and Feb. 22, and 26 subpoenas were issued for people to testify under oath.
The Reeves case was among five called Friday. Seven others were scheduled but the people involved didn't show up. Three additional cases were resolved without a hearing.
Board members stressed that in every situation, poll workers did exactly what they were supposed to do -- ask voters to fill out a provisional ballot that could be examined later. They added there was never a situation where two votes were counted from the same person. The absentee ballot was the one tabulated.
Veronica Stearns told board members she put one stamp on her absentee ballot envelope to mail it, but heard from her mother that two were required.
That's was the basis for voting at her Springfield Township precinct.
"They told my mom at the post office if you didn't put two stamps on, they don't send them in," she said. "That's why I voted twice."
Caleb Faux, a Democratic member of the board, said Stearns and her mother received bad information.
"The policy of the post office is to mail every ballot to the board and if there's insufficient postage, the board picks up that additional postage," he said. "Which is why your absentee ballot was received and it was counted."
The testimony was very short for both Isiah Edwards, Jr., of North College Hill, and Pamela Taylor of Avondale.
Both replied "no" when asked if they intended to vote twice in the presidential election.
Taylor said one of the residents of her apartment building had "demanded and commanded" everybody to vote for President Barack Obama in his bid for a second term.
Green Township resident Rick Manoff stated that he remembered an absentee ballot arriving at his house and being placed in a pile of unpaid bills and papers.
"I put it in an envelope that I had already stamped with all the other bills," he said. "I don't know what happened to it. I assumed I had inadvertently disposed of it."
Manoff said he went to his polling place, where a worker informed him that an absentee ballot had been received, but gave him a provisional ballot to vote.
Faux said that was the proper thing to do.
"If a poll worker told this voter to cast a provisional ballot in that circumstance, that was precisely what they should have done," he said.
Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy said the case of a Carolyn Johnson from Avondale was resolved when it was determined that a woman with the same name lived in an adjacent precinct.
Searcy added the matter of Kevin T. Rack, Sr., was resolved before Friday's hearing.
The case of Marsha Daugherty produced considerable discussion among board members. She said she requested, received and voted an absentee ballot.
However, she added she "gave her ballot to folks who came to her door and they told her they would deliver it to the board."
Daugherty told investigators she became so concerned that the ballot wouldn't be counted that she went to her polling place and voted a provisional ballot. It turned out the absentee ballot was brought to the board and counted.
The case of Melowese Richardson will be heard on February 22.
The Madisonville woman, a former poll worker, admitted to 9 On Your Side that she voted twice in the 2012 election, but didn't intend to commit voter fraud.
Richardson said she voted an absentee ballot but was concerned that it wouldn't arrive in the mail in time to be counted, so she also voted on Election Day at the Madisonville Recreation Center.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted called that intolerable and troubling and said he will push to have the evidence in the case turned over to the prosecutor's office for review.
"It compromises the integrity of our election system, both in terms
of confidence and the reality of it," he said. "It's completely deplorable, unacceptable and needs to be dealt with swiftly."
Husted acknowledged the number of potential voter fraud cases in Hamilton County is high compared to many of the state's 87 other counties. He said that's because the board has tried to make it easy for people to cast ballots.
"On the other side, when there's evidence of voter fraud, it has to be investigated," he said. "If there is substantiation of those claims, those need to be turned over to the prosecutor so we can send a very strong message that if you commit fraud, you will be prosecuted and you will be held accountable."
Punishment in these cases includes possible jail time and fines.
Hamilton County Board of Elections members won't decide until Friday, Feb. 22 if any of the cases will be sent to Prosecutor Joe Deters' office.
Similar hearings are being conducted throughout the state. Husted said the results will be compiled in a report that the Ohio Legislature can use to determine if changes are needed in Ohio voting laws.
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