A Second Ohio Prosecutor Threatens to Criminalize Voting

A number of people have noted that Joe Deters–John McCain’s SW Ohio Co-Chair and Hamilton County Prosecutor–has subpoenaed the information for 40 percent of those who registered and voted at the same time during Ohio’s "golden week" that allowed people to do both at the same time.

Deters issued a subpoena on Friday for complete registration records for roughly 40 percent of the 671 voters who registered and cast a ballot between Sept. 30, when early voting began, and Oct. 6, the deadline for voter registration.

The subpoena, obtained by The Associated Press, is part of a grand jury investigation initiated by Deters in the county.


It was unclear why the subpoena – which also calls upon the county’s election director and deputy director to testify before the grand jury – doesn’t ask for records of all voters from the weeklong window.

It’s worth noting, however, that this is not an isolated example of a Republican operative using his prosecutorial powers to collect information on people who voted during that week. 

It seems that the former partner of Mike DeWine (DeWine is co-Chair of the McCain team in OH) is asking for the voter registration cards of everyone in Greene County, OH, who voted during golden week:

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer and representatives of County Prosecutor Stephen Haller have contacted the local Board of Elections asking for the voter registration cards of everyone who voted during the six-day window, which ended Monday.

What a coinkydink, huh?

Of course, I have no hard evidence that these two prosecutors are playing the same game, leaking news of a criminal investigation into voting. But it’s worth noting that, in both cases, the prosecutors themselves claim to have received the allegations of vote fraud–not elections officials. Here’s Greene County:

Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer, a Republican, requested registration cards and address change forms Thursday for all 302 people who took advantage of the window. He told elections officials he had been flooded with telephone calls from people concerned about possible fraud.

And here’s Hamilton County:

“We’ve had widespread complaints of fraud but we do not discuss investigations at all,” Deters said. He said the complaints came from “a variety of sources.”


The fraud allegations that led to the Hamilton County grand jury investigation did not come from local election officials, said county elections board Deputy Director John Williams.

Brunner has ordered counties to immediately investigate any claims of fraud, and report the findings to county prosecutors and to her office.

“This office is unaware of any specific allegations of illegal voting out of that county,” said Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega.

Again, just because both of these efforts have direct ties to McCain’s state campaign doesn’t mean they’re trying the same scheme. But here’s a description of what the first Republican operative–Stephen Haller–seems to be targeting.

Tom Miller, chief of the prosecutor’s civil division, said Fischer is seeking information so that he can prevent voter fraud. He made it clear to prosecutors that his concerns were not partisan, Miller said, even noting during their discussion that students at one college, Cedarville, tend to vote Republican.

Among concerns presented to county officials were that college students who voted during the window would be able to vote again in their home counties on Election Day, and that early voters might simultaneously register and vote in Ohio and in another state, Miller said.

"There’s certain information that the sheriff was hoping to appear on that voter registration that might enable him to track backward and determine whether there was any voter fraud or not," Miller said.

If Deters only subpoenaed students’ registration information, it might explain why he only sought records of some of the voters who had registered early.  

I’m not sure what these guys are trying–aside from raising concerns that voting may get you in trouble with the law. But it sure raises some concerns.

33 replies
  1. klynn says:

    Marcy, I’ll try to find it but there is a conservative college student blog that I read on and off. When I first read drips on the Greene county issue, I started reading Ohio political blogs. On this one blog, I read about how one of the bloggers was telling conservative college voters to register early and vote even if they were registered in another state. The point of his instructions is that he wanted to prove voter fraud with early voting. The facts: the requests from the two prosecutors was strictly for college students information, that two republicans have come forward from the same areas of Ohio and that the sheriff’s office was flooded with calls about possible fraud? How do you get all of that if it was not coordinated? I would be looking at the GOP for trying to break the law in order to “game” a decision on early voting.

    By the way, Reps in Ohio have been gaming the system for a long time. Many Rep retirees who are snowbirds with two properties, vote by absentee ballot in Ohio and Florida. Also, Pastor Ron Parsley supports building communities of believers and then games the vote in his “communities”. How about we focus on those practices GOP?

    • emptywheel says:


      It would be very cool if you could find that again. Note the longer story on Greene points out that one of the colleges is conservative–so it may be an effort organized out of there.

  2. pdaly says:

    Christy’s FDL post today about vote switching machines in WV early voting (Obama to McCain, of course) had me thinking that maybe early voting in Ohio occurred before such error prone machines were in place.

    But if the students tend to vote Republican, klynn’s suggestion makes sense.
    Why throw away pro-Republican double votes unless there is a larger goal to achieve.

  3. Arbusto says:

    When will Congress (DINO’s) understand (care) that voter suppression is a serious blow to a democracy and should pass a strict law with long long sentences, and equating suppression to treason, which it is.

  4. klynn says:


    Wednesday, October 1, 2008
    Early voting issues
    I just wanted to share my plan for the current situation the Democrat Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has helped implement for me.

    I’ve called all my friends in Georgia and Alaska (states that are clearly leaning Republican) and had them register to vote (using the local YMCA’s address) and to apply for an absentee ballot so the ballot will be sent to their homes in GA and AK.

    This window of opportunity where folks can register to vote and vote absentee is ridiculous. The democrats are trying to skirt tail the election process and having people register to vote using YMCAs, Churches and other addresses to register and then cast their ballot. Democrats are busing people from all over to take advantage of this loop hole.

    And in reality, someone could vote 3 times this election. UNBELIEVABLE. This gives a whole new meaning to Vote early and Vote often.
    Posted by Greene County Young Republicans at 8:49 PM

    This is from the Greene county young Republicans blog…

    Gotta wonder…

  5. bmaz says:

    Two things:

    1) “Tom Miller, chief of the prosecutor’s civil division, said Fischer is seeking information so that he can prevent voter fraud.” Have we somehow stumbled into Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report and we are prosecuting thought crimes or something? Because, last I checked, grand juries are for the purpose of investigating crimes that have occurred, not to “prevent” crime.

    2) The only hint of putative evidence of a crime I see here is by the Greene County Young Republicans in the report KLynn posted @8. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that is not what Mr. Prosecutor and his freaking grand jury are after though.

  6. cbl2 says:

    Good Afternoon Emptywheel and Firedogs,


    I need help with the “tags” thingy over at Oxdown – says I need a tag for my post. Is there a list of tags ? can someone help me out ?

    • Margot says:

      Just put in a couple of words…say your diary is on Willie Nelson. Tags: singer, country. It just has to have something or it won’t post.

  7. Blub says:

    I cannot believe that the OH thugs, who so botched things for their state in ‘04, making it the butt of jokes, seem determined to do so again. Doesn’t the state have a Dem controlled legislature and Dem governor?

    FL’s still just as messed up, but at least there Governor Crist seems determined to manipulate their process to carry out some type of bizarre revenge fantasy against his fellow rethug, McInsane. Oh.. aren’t rethugs just a delightful bunch…

  8. STTPinOhio says:

    This bullshit’s got to stop.

    It’s getting to be a never ending embarrassment to live in this state.

    All rules regarding voting and registration should be in place months before an election, and not able to be changed until after.

    No more of this 11th hour “We’re losing so let’s throw sand in the umpire’s face.”

    Longtime residents of the lake will appreciate that Fitzism.

  9. Neil says:

    Block the Vote – Will the GOP’s campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?
    Posted Oct 30, 2008 11:10 A

    A striking analysis in Rolling Stone this week by voting rights advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and journalist Greg Palast, who broke the story of the 2000 Florida voter purges that arguably threw the election to Bush. Choice nuggets from the RS story:

    – “All told, states reported scrubbing at least 10 million voters from their rolls on questionable grounds between 2004 and 2006. Colorado holds the record: Donetta Davidson, the Republican secretary of state, and her GOP successor oversaw the elimination of nearly one of every six of their state’s voters.”

    – “According to a recent study for the Election Law Journal, young people, senior citizens and minorities – groups that traditionally vote Democratic – often have no driver’s licenses or state ID cards. According to the study, one in 10 likely white voters do not possess the necessary identification. For African-Americans, the number lacking such ID is twice as high.”

    – In 2004, despite a federal consent order forbidding Republicans from engaging in the practice, the GOP sent out tens of thousands of letters to “confirm” the addresses of voters in minority precincts. If a letter was returned for any reason – because the voter was away at school or serving in the military – the GOP challenged the voter for giving a false address.

    – Conclusion: “Add up all the modern-day barriers to voting erected since the 2004 election – the new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted – and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.”

  10. Knut says:

    Antioch College is in Greene County (Yellow Springs). In the old days, we were used to seeing FBI operatives on campus looking for ’subversives.’ This is more of the same.

  11. freepatriot says:

    didn’t we know it was gonna get ugly ???

    in the electronic age, shredders just won’t save your sorry ass any more (though dead eye dick ain’t figured that out yet)

    these criminal fucks are gettin desperate

    and desperate crooks get sloppy (speaking from personal experience)

    they’re droppin crumbs of evidence ALL OVER THE PLACE

    the way I see it, george bush is gonna have to invent some sort of OMNI-PARDON

    something that excuses past crimes and the future crimes needed to hide the past crimes

    wanna bet dead eye dick and turd blossom pull a doozy out of their ass on November 5th ???

  12. gtomkins says:

    Spoofing the election

    Leaving to one side the largely imponderable possibility of stealing elections through the “black box” of a computerized system that lacks a paper audit trail, it is difficult to poach large numbers of votes without a conspiracy so large as to be highly vulnerable to discovery. If there is an audit trail, there is usually a set of procedures in place that keeps individuals from stealing more than a very few votes at the margins except in jurisdictions where the auditing procedures are systematically bypassed or ignored.

    But the very complexity of the rules and procedures needed to keep elections hard to steal, leave them more vulnerable to spoofing. The Republicans seem to be implementing a strategy of harping on marginal violations in some of these procedures. Most people seem to assume that the only purpose is to intimidate those who might seek, like ACORN, to register voters, or, as in this Ohio case, to intimidate voters away from early voting, which mostly favors the Democrats. Without detracting from this explanation, there are other potential benefits to their side from this spoofing.

    Obviously, they are also trying to delegitimize the results of an election that they are probably going to lose. They will be able to blame the loss on Democratric cheating. But the goal further down this same road, if the arguments for Democratic cheating could be made firm enough to make it in actual courts, as opposed to the court of a media world ruled by Drudge. That gap, once admittedly uncrossable, should not be considered so unbridgeable in the light of the Bush v Gore decision. It is not unreasonable to think that the SC would give McCain the presidency if only the other side’s lawyers can get a chance to place an even half-way legally plausible argument in front of them.

    The role of trhe low-grade spoofing we hav seen so far may be to simply form parts of a larger pattern f alleged conspiracy. MCain has already accused ACORN of such a conspiracy. Higher-grade spoofing would presumably follow.

    Consider just one example of the sort of higher-grade spoofing they could deploy. My state, VA, doesn’t really maintain very tough security of its voting machines. The warehouse in which they are stored, at least in Fairfax, is pretty lax, and after the warehouse, the machines are housed at the individual polling places in hundreds of even less secure janitor’s closets. It would not be difficult for the other side to get to a few of the new optical scanners to run a few hundred ballots through each of them before election day. Now, they wouldn’t do this in order to run McCain ballots, because stealing votes this way would be frustrated when the zero tape is run at the beginning of Election Day, and, even if the zero tape showing more than zero votes were ignored by officials in on the steal, other members of the conspiracy would need to get hundreds of extra names checked off the poll books to make the numbers come out right. The spoofers would instead run Obama ballots through the scanners. They would rely on these illegally cast Obama votes being discovered at the beginning of the voting day, and having this apparent Obama fraud publicized. This publicity alone could get them enough votes to swing a close election. Even better for their purposes, the discrepency on the zero tapes at some precincts might not be caught at opening (the optical scanners are new to VA this year), and would be discovered only at the end of the day when hundreds more votes are tallied on the closing tape than were crossd off the poll books. Failure to catch it at opening would not only create the impression that election officers at that precinct were involved in a conspiracy, but would put the entire result from that precinct in legal limbo, again threatening to reverse a close election.

    More extreme spoofs like this one would accomplish the lesser goals, intimidation of voters and delegitimization of results, more effectively, but also offer perhaps the only chance of a judicial steal they have for an election that probably will not offer a repeat of 2000’s freakishly close result. They almost certainly would be able to get a case to the Supreme Court if the election is so close that it would be reversed by flipping one state, because one state is almost certan to have a result within 0.5%, and therefore legally contestable in most states. But that seems unlikely this year. It would probably take several states’ worth of flipped EC votes to reverse this election. To get there, the SC would have to bring out some theories even more novel than those used to justify Bush v Gore. The only way that would work, in terms of Congress not being goaded into asserting its authority over presidential elections, would be in the setting of an at least plausible picture of systematic Democratic voting fraud.

  13. urbanmeemaw says:

    Yesterday’s Cincinnati Stenographer delivered a one-two punch yesterday about “voter fraud” – a front page top of the fold “story” followed by a screed by Peter Bronson, resident wingnut welfare hack on the editorial page (”Jennifer Brunner gave Ohio a black eye”). When I heard about Deters’ “Grand Jury” investigation the stories made sense. It sounds to me like this is coordinated with the events in Green County. Deters is also Hamilton County chair of the McCain/Palin campaign. Any suggestions from anyone regarding what can be done?

  14. randiego says:

    wait a second… by issuing subpoenas for these records, won’t the Republicans (Hamilton Cty Ohio) find out what the early vote tally’s are?

    Isn’t this part of their scheme? A way to see how the early vote process hurts them?

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