December 26, 2012Following the recent recount in the Crawford County coroner's election, the county Republican Party chair has asked that the Indiana State Police look into possible irregularities.
In a letter dated Dec. 19 to Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, GOP chair Patricia Ramsey said the irregularities were discovered during the hand recount, which took place Dec. 14 and 15.
"It appears as though there were approximately 65 more ballots cast than signatures," she wrote. "While some may feel that this is of no significance, I feel that as the Chairman of the Republican Party for Crawford County it is my duty to bring this matter to your attention in effort to allow the Indiana State Police to open an investigation into the matter."
The recount garnered 57 additional votes for Democrat David (Wayne) Bullington and 25 for Republican Michelle Fitch. Bullington, who had a lead of 2,230 to 2,200 prior to the recount, was declared the winner last week by Special Judge Frank Newkirk of Washington County after finishing with 2,287 votes to Fitch's 2,225.
Glenn Crecelius, the Republican on the three-member recount board that also included Democrat Dawn Wright and Jeremy Burton of ES&S, the county's election services provider, said the discrepancy between the number of ballots and voter signatures is either "ignorance or cheating." He estimated there were inconsistencies in about half of the county's 18 precincts.
GOP vice chair Daniel Crecelius, who served as a watcher on both days, called the discrepancies "problematic," adding the largest was in Patoka 1, where there were 32 more ballots than signatures on the poll sheet. There was a total of 488 ballots from the precinct reported on election night.
At least one precinct, Crecelius said, had more signatures than ballots, but the ballots were discovered, as they had been mistakenly placed in the precinct machine.
"Nobody lost their vote, he said.
Glenn Crecelius noted that, during the recount, five blank ballots were discovered mixed in with the votes. In addition, he said, the ballots, based on the identification numbers printed on each, were not even in the correct precinct.
If the discrepancies are due to honest mistakes, better training of poll workers and additional measures need to be taken, Crecelius said. For example, with multiple precincts voting at the same location, the machines ballots are inserted into need to reject those from the wrong precinct, he said.
Crecelius said he informed Newkirk during the recount of the discrepancy between the number of ballots and signatures, but Newkirk indicated his role was to make sure the ballots were recounted correctly. With the election needing to be certified by last Thursday, he declared Bullington, based on the results of the recount, the winner.
In her letter to Hillenburg, Ramsey wrote that she was informed by the Indiana Election Division that, in order for the ISP to get involved, a request must be made by the county prosecutor.
"Therefore, at this time I am requesting that you request the assistance of the Indiana State Police to investigate this matter to determine whether or not foul play exists with the election," she said.
Hillenburg, who drafted a letter to Lt. Robert Priest of the Indiana State Police Jasper Post on Thursday afternoon to request an investigation, said the request could have been made by anyone and wasn't required to have come from the Prosecutor's Office.
Hillenburg indicated that the ISP Jasper Post will refer the request to ISP officials in Indianapolis. If approved, she said, a law enforcement officer from another region in the state will be assigned the case.