Wednesday, 19 September 2007 00:00

Swain voter fraud investigation sent to feds

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The North Carolina State Board of Elections has concluded its investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Swain County, but a final decision on whether the activities amounted to wrongdoing is still pending.

“As far as we know, we have finished all the legwork and interviews,” said Marshall Tutor, an investigator with the state election office. “We have turned it into a final report that now rests with the state board.”

The state election board — a five-member appointed body — will review the report and determine whether election laws were broken based on Tutor’s findings.

In the meantime, the results of the investigation are being shared with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. It is neither typical nor atypical for the state election office to share findings of an election investigation with federal authorities, Tutor said.

“It is not that unusual that we would share information,” Tutor said. “In this case, we were requested to send it to the U.S. Justice Department.”

Specifically, the findings were sent to John Tanner, chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division for the Justice Department. What the Justice Department plans to do with investigation is not known.

The focus of the investigation was a voting drive targeting the poor and elderly that potentially crossed the line from exceptionally ambitious to improper. The voting drive was led by two prominent Democrats — County Commissioner Chairman Glenn Jones and Willard Smith, a long-time leader in the Swain County Democratic Party. Smith’s nephew, Philip Smith, also aided with the voting drive.

The men systematically targeted trailer parks, low-income senior housing and nursing homes. They helped more than 120 residents vote through the mail — by requesting the ballots, filling them out and mailing them back in. Questions include whether the men violated the law by taking the marked ballots of other voters into their possession, whether the two witnesses who signed the absentee ballots were actually present when the ballots were marked, whether voters were intimidated, and whether they violated state law by marking the ballots of nursing home residents on their behalf.

For now, the findings of Tutor’s investigation are not being made public.

“All matters related to this case are still confidential and this case continues to be an open investigation,” Tutor said. “Until all governmental agencies with an interest in this case have a chance to review this matter, there will be no public information released.”

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