Poll worker accused of voter fraud in Hamilton County speaks out

CINCINNATI - The Hamilton County Board of Elections is investigating 19 possible cases of alleged voter fraud following months of investigation after the 2012 election.

Twenty-eight subpoenas have been issued as a result of the investigation, which includes 19 Hamilton County voters and nine witnesses who still need to answer questions to satisfy the board.

The board started with 80 suspicious cases and now is down to 19. Officials say the majority of the cases turned out to be simple misunderstandings.

Melowese Richardson, a Madisonville resident, first learned of the allegations when approached by 9 On Your Side reporter Tom McKee Wednesday. Even though she admits to voting twice in the last election, she said the news came as surprise.

"I would think that something this important would come to me first and that I wouldn't have to be enlightened about this through you," said Richardson.

According to county documents, Richardson's absentee ballot was accepted on Nov. 1, 2012 along with her signature. On Nov. 11, she told an official she also voted at a precinct because she was afraid her absentee ballot would not be counted in time.

"There's absolutely no intent on my part to commit voter fraud," said Richardson.

According to BOE records, her name appeared on an absentee ballot list prior to Election Day. The board's report states poll workers should have updated the signature poll book by flagging "absentee voter" next to the names of those who appeared on the list. Upon investigation it was found that none of the voters who appeared on the list were flagged, which included Richardson. The staff could not locate that supplemental list when asked.

Richardson voted at the Madisonville Recreation Center where she worked as a paid worker on Election Day.

She has worked the polls since 1988. Richardson said in her youth she would accompany her mother, who also worked at the polls, even though she wasn't old enough to vote at the time.

"I, after registering thousands of people, certainly wanted my vote to count. So, I voted. I voted at the poll," she said.

The board's documents also state that Richardson was allegedly disruptive and hid things from other poll workers on Election Day after another female worker reported she was intimated by Richardson.

However, Richardson claims she was the one intimidated while doing her job.

"I think I was intimidated because she's new and wasn't doing her job very efficiently and like I said, I've been working the polls for several years. I let her know how it should have been taken care of," said Richardson.

During the investigation it was also discovered that her granddaughter, India Richardson, who was a first time voter in the 2012 election, cast two ballots in November.

Documents show when India was contacted on Jan. 17 concerning the two ballots, she denied voting absentee.

She stated, "No, my grandmother filled that out and voted my ballot because she didn't think I would go do it, but I did. I voted provisionally at my polling place on Election Day," according to the report.

Richardson admitted to sending one of her granddaughter's ballots in the mail.

"I did let her know that I was getting the absentee ballot for her and sending it in. I had to get her Social Security number for that. I assumed she forgot or was just excited and she went to the polls herself," said Richardson.

Another claim is absentee ballots for Montez Richardson, Joseph Jones and Markus Barron all came from Richardson's Whetsel Avenue address and were received by the board at the same time as Richardson's. The handwriting on all four of them was similar, according to officials.

"Markus Barron lives here. Joseph Jones is my brother. He's here from time-to-time. I am Montez's power-of-attorney. I voted for her in her absence," said Richardson.

She said she thought all of the votes were legal. The matter may still wind up before the Hamilton County prosecutor.

"Have they never heard of a simple mistake? Have they never heard of overlooking? Mailing in a ballot or registering to vote at a precinct after you've forgotten that you mailed in a ballot?" said Richardson.

Two hearings will take place Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 where those accused will have a chance to speak. Richardson's case will be heard Feb. 22 and she says it's far from over.

"Absolutely. Absolutely, I'll fight it for Mr. Obama and for Mr. Obama's right to sit as president of the United States."

To view all possible fraud cases linked to last year's election visit http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/Fraud.pdf.

Reporter Tom McKee contributed to this report.

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