The Clermont County Board of Elections has turned over information to the prosecutor’s office in a possible voter fraud case regarding the Moscow Village Council race. After a recount held Dec. 3, 2009, the board of elections determined that Terry Gorth of Wells Street in Moscow voted twice in the Nov. 3, 2009 election.
According to a letter from Mary Lynne Birck, assistant prosecuting attorney, Gorth requested an absentee ballot. He later called the board of elections and indicated that he had lost the ballot and was sent a replacement ballot.
Director Judy Miller explained that the absentee ballots are sent through the vote remote machine where the signatures are checked and the machine determines whether or not there is a suspended ballot of the returned absentee ballots.
Miller said that it was when candidate Linda Carter asked for a list of the people who voted that the board discovered that the ballot count did not match. Carter lost her bid for a council seat by one vote.
"We had 35 ballots and 35 envelopes, but only 34 individual names," said Miller. "Of all of the voters that were issued a replacement ballot, this was the only one that was duplicated."
The board opened the absentee ballot can to see if there was a blank ballot for Moscow Village and did not find a blank ballot, which meant that both ballots returned were voted.
"As the software did not alert the BOE to a problem, the ballots were manually removed from the envelopes in a manner that concealed the identity of the voter (proper procedure); that is, the ballot could not be traced back to the envelop which contains identifying information of the voter," said Birck.
Because of the closeness of the race and only one declared winner, the BOE was required to conduct a recount. The margin between four candidates vying for three council seats was two votes.
"In preparing for the recount, a report was run by the BOE which indicated that 34 voters cast 35 ballots in the race, the first indication of an inconsistency," said Birck. "Upon manual examination of the envelopes, the BOE discovered two envelopes from the same voter."
According to Birck, Miller phoned Gorth and asked him if he voted twice. He replied that he did not remember sending the original ballot.
"There is no dispute of fact, a single voter cast two ballots with regard to Moscow Village Council race," said Birck. "Nor can the problem be corrected by segregating the problem ballots from the others as no one can identify which voter voted with which ballot."
Gorth was indicted by the Grand Jury on Wednesday, Jan. 20. He pleaded not guilty to one charge of illegal voting. He appeared before Common Pleas Court Judge Victor Haddad for a bond hearing on Thursday, Jan. 21. His bond was set at $100,000. If Gorth is found guilty, he could be sentenced to one year in prison.
Birck's letter stated that there was no statutory or judicial authority to enable the BOE to hold a new election even though an irregularity was discovered.
"It is the opinion of this office that the BOE has no option but to accept the results, irregularity not withstanding," said Birck.
The BOE certified the election results for Moscow Village Council as follows: Lori Martineck, 73; Carol Forste, 58; Kent Jones 58; Dennis Skeene, 57; Linda Carter, 56 and Andrew Thaler, 20. Four candidates were elected.