By Mark Wachtler
July 22, 2013. Cincinnati. (ONN) Two high-profile cases of vote fraud admittedly carried out by Republican Party members, officials and hired operatives were both dropped or overturned last week. At the exact same time, a third case saw an elderly, black, Democrat grandma sentenced to five years in prison for voting for her sister and granddaughter, twice.
58 year-old grandmother Melowese Richardson was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Image courtesy of DrJays.com.
They represent three very different cases, but all consist of one form of voter fraud or another. One appears to be a mindless mistake by a lazy 20 year-old. Another consisted of a single voter taking it upon herself to vote multiple times. And the third case involved widespread and decades-long election fraud by an entire community of elected officials.
23 year-old Colin Small
Colin Small lived in Phoenixville, PA but had taken a short-term job from a private company to register voters in Virginia. In the run-up to the General Election, the Virginia Republican Party hired a corporation called Pinpoint to register voters in GOP areas. On October 15, 2012, one of the individuals contracted by the agency to canvass precincts and sign people up to vote was seen tossing a white garbage bag into a dumpster behind a Virginia convenience store.
The store owner, curious as to the contents of the bag, found regular garbage along with 8 completed voter registration forms. He immediately contacted authorities. It wasn’t difficult to track down Small and he was eventually taken into custody and charged with 8 felonies and 5 misdemeanors for the act. The registration forms were taken to the local Board of Elections where they were processed. The agency revealed that of the 8 forms, 3 were for already-registered voters. One was ineligible to vote, while the remaining 4 were added to the voter rolls in time for the November 2012 election.
At the time, Democratic political operatives used the incident as an example of what they called widespread voter suppression. But those actually involved have instead suggested it was most-likely no more than a case of a young man who simply didn’t want to go to the trouble of turning in his final 8 forms.
Back in April, Rockingham County District Court Judge Marvin Hillsman threw out all 8 felony charges. Last week, Hillsman threw out the remaining misdemeanor charges as well. As detailed by OpposingViews.com, Small’s lawyer John C. Holloran accused Democrats of using the incident as political propaganda and the Republican officials of overreacting to squelch accusations of GOP voter suppression.
"It was taking a case where a kid made a mistake and blowing it up in the winds of a Presidential election,” Holloran said, “Democrats batted it out of the park, or tried to, and Republicans said, well, we better [cover our ass] on this and we'll just roast one of our own so nobody can call us and say we're playing favorites because the kid's a Republican."
At the same time 23 year-old Colin Small was having his charges dismissed, 8 rural Kentucky activists, some high level government officials, saw their convictions for various acts of voter and election fraud thrown out by a US Circuit Court of Appeals. The reason – prosecutors improperly influenced the jury by detailing a long-time drug trafficking operation simultaneously being carried out by some of the same Republican officials.
The Appeals Court panel concluded that both the mention of the drug trafficking, as well as the sheer volume of time and evidence dedicated to it, prohibited the defendants from receiving a fair trial. Writing for the panel of judges, Judge Karen Nelson Moore said, "Given that the government was able to paint an unfair picture of the defendants and offer direct prejudicial evidence that should have been excluded, we remand the case for a new trial."
Moore explained further writing, “The sheer amount of drug-dealing evidence that was presented is entirely disproportionate to its probative value, tipping the scales toward unfair prejudice. In sum, the evidence of widespread drug dealing in Clay County did not serve as a prelude to the present case or help complete the story of the offense."
Prosecutors and local police officials disagree. They detailed during the original trial that they stumbled upon the six-year election fraud operation while investigating some of the very same defendants for drug trafficking. It was only when low-level drug dealers began incriminating higher-ups in the drug operation that arrestees began admitting to involvement in the election fraud scheme as well.
The election fraud convictions weren’t limited to the eight who were awarded new trials last week. There were a large number of other Kentucky elected officials, including some Democrats, who plead guilty and admitted to their roles. As detailed by AP and the Sun Herald, those who saw their convictions overturned include a Circuit Court judge, a School Superintendent, a County Clerk, a Magistrate judge, an elections Commissioner, an elections officer and the owners of a local business receiving contracts from the same government officials.
Brad Friedman, who writes the column BradBlog.com and has been reporting on the trial since the beginning, explained on Friday, “The group had been found guilty of complex, endemic vote buying and selling schemes carried out over many elections over several years, often meant to game the Republican primary elections in the very rural, very poor, Republican area of the Bluegrass State in a location where winning the GOP primary was usually a guarantee for also winning the general election.”
Friedman went on to remind readers of the repercussions this case has, ‘The schemes became more sophisticated over the years, according to prosecution evidence and cooperating witnesses, including in 2006 when poll workers participating in the conspiracy were said to have changed the votes cast by voters on touch-screen voting machines after they'd left the booth on Election Day. The same 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems, the ES&S iVotronic, which allowed for the manipulation of votes in Clay County, are still in widespread use across the country today.’
Grandma Melowese Richardson
At the exact same time those two Republican Party conspiracies were being dismissed and overturned, conservative media outlets like Fox News were presenting 58 year-old Melowese Richardson as the face of America’s vote fraud epidemic. The black grandmother from Cincinnati didn’t just admit to voting twice in this past November’s General Election, she boasted about it on a local TV newscast.
Melowese Richardson was a Democratic Party election worker who, according to her own testimony, registered thousands of individuals to vote over the years. Because of that work, the judge presiding over her criminal trial seemed to be extra harsh, accusing the veteran election worker of abusing her position of authority. "Your job was to make sure it was conducted fairly, but what did you do? You used this position of lifeguard, this position of trust, to vote illegally," said Judge Robert P. Ruehlman as he announced a five-year prison sentence for Richardson.
Judge Ruehlman didn’t stop there however. As reported by the above news outlet, he then openly and publicly taunted the 58 year-old grandmother in court. Describing Richardson and her crimes, he remarked, “[You’re/She’s] supposed to be the guardian of the voting system, but 'Hey, I'm Melowese Richardson, I like President Obama.' That's fine, a lot of people like President Obama and they voted for him fair and square. ‘But 'I'm Melowese Richardson, I'm going to take the law in my own hands, I'm going to use my position of trust at the Board of Elections, and I'm going to cheat.'"
Melowese Richardson admitted to voting twice as the same person, once at the polls and once via absentee ballot. Prosecutors insist she did it in 2008, as well as 2012. But the details show that grandma Melowese may not be the master criminal the judge and her five-year sentence suggest. According to the trial evidence, one of the people Richardson voted on behalf of was her sister who’s been in a coma for the past ten years. Another so-called ‘victim’ of vote fraud was Richardson’s granddaughter India Richardson. When interviewed by Fox News, she told the outlet, “It wasn’t a big deal.”
Apparently, if it were an entire county worth of Republican elected officials buying votes and selling drugs, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But this case involved a black, Democrat grandmother who voted for herself, her incapacitated sister, and her apathetic granddaughter…twice. And while that act is both wrong and illegal, the outcomes of these cases show something bigger is wrong here. And it isn’t just grandma Melowese voting twice.
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