Voter fraud probe nabs two southern West Virginia officials (audio)
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West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant answers questions regarding a joint investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s office into voter fraud in Lincoln County. (Photo/Steven Allen Adams)
By Steven Allen Adams | West Virginia Watchdog
CHARLESTON — Two Lincoln County officials have agreed to plead guilty to charges of falsifying ballots and obstructing a federal investigation into voter fraud.
The U.S. Attorney’s office announced today that Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman, 58, and Lincoln County Clerk Donald C. Whitten, 62, will plead guilty to felonies after the U.S. Attorney’s office and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office launched an investigation two years ago.
“I do not allow the integrity of our election process to be compromised,” said Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. “I do not tolerate election law violations by anyone, regardless of party or position.”
Bowman admitted to falsifying over 100 absentee ballots during the 2010 primary for voters who couldn’t legally vote absentee. Later, Bowman was illegally in the same room with voters as they marked their absentee ballots and sometimes marked the ballots himself. Bowman was term-limited as sheriff an was running for circuit clerk. Bowman faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Whitten admitted to making a false statement after lying to federal investigators about his roll in the conspiracy. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Both Democrats agreed to resign from office and never seek office again.
“I want the case to send a simple message: you cannot steal election in southern West Virginia,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “Honest elections are worth fighting for.”
Bowman and Whitten also agreed to cooperate as the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Secretary of State continue their investigation into Lincoln County elections. One conspirator, a candidate for County Commission that year, was left unnamed in court documents. Bowman and Whitten have not been arraigned yet.
The Secretary of State’s lead investigator was Jim Wise, a former FBI investigator who helped convict the Logan County Sheriff and County Clerk seven years ago. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Ryan and Steven Ruby, counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s office, lead the prosecution.
Several years ago the Circuit Clerk and County Assessor of Lincoln County were convicted of felonies for vote buying after tampering with the 2004 Democratic primary. That same assessor, Jerry Weaver, is running for Lincoln County Sheriff, despite being a felon.
Posted under Abuse, Audio, Elections, Ethics, Featured, Federal, Fraud, News, West Virginia.
Tags: Absentee ballot, County Commission, Jerry Bowman, Lincoln County, Natalie Tennant, U.S. Attorney, United States, United States Attorney, voter fraud, West Virginia
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