Election Fraud Cases
Elbert Melton, the former mayor of Gordon, illegally notarized two ballots, without witnesses present, during the 2016 election in which he was running for mayor. Melton won that race by only 16 votes. Melton was convicted on two counts of absentee ballot fraud, was removed from office, and was sentenced to serve one year in prison followed by two years of probation.
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Brandon Dean, who was elected mayor of Brighton, Alabama in 2016, was ordered to vacate the office after a judge determined that 46 fraudulent abentee votes had been cast for him in the 2016 election. Of these ballots, 21 were not signed by the voter, 22 had been sent to Dean's address instead of the voters' homes, 2 absentee ballots were submitted by voters who were actually present at city hall on Election Day, and one did not live in Brighton city limits. Deducting the fraudulent votes dropped Dean's vote total below the threshold needed to avoid a mandatory runoff, which the city of Brighton must now hold.
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A judge overturned the preliminary election results and declared Lewis Washington as the winner in a contested Wetumpka City Council District 2 election. On election night, it appeared that Washington's opponent, Percy Gill, who was the incumbent, had won by three votes. Washington challenged the result, and following a trial in which live witnesses and forensics experts testified, the judge threw out eight absentee ballots that had been cast for Gill either because the signatures had been forged or they had not been notarized or signed in front of the requisite number of witnesses, and declared Washington to be the winner.
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Daniel W. Reynolds pleaded guilty to three counts of absentee ballot fraud and was sentenced to two years' probation. Reynolds, the chief campaign volunteer for Commissioner Amos Newsome, participated in falsifying absentee ballots in the Dothan District 2 election between Newsome and his rival Lamesa Danzey in the summer of 2013.
Janice Lee Hart pleaded guilty to eight misdemeanor counts of attempted absentee ballot fraud in connection with misconduct while working on the 2013 campaign for District 2 City Commissioner Amos Newsome. Prosecutors charged that Hart was not present when absentee ballots were signed even though she was listed as a witness on the ballots. In the election, Newsome defeated his challenger by only 14 votes and received 119 out of the 124 absentee ballots cast. A judge sentenced Hart to 12 months in the county jail for each count, which he suspended to two years of probation for each count.
A Houston County jury found Lesa Coleman guilty of seven felony counts of absentee ballot fraud related to the 2013 election for a city commission seat. Coleman received a three year split sentence. She will serve 180 days in jail followed by three years of probation.
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Olivia Lee Reynolds was convicted of 24 counts of voter fraud. While working on the 2013 campaign for her boyfriend, Dothan City Commissioner Amos Newsome, Reynolds filled out voters' ballots for them and told others for whom to vote. Her fraud had definite consequences: Commissioner Newsome won reelection by a mere 14 votes, losing the in-person vote by a wide margin but winning an incredible 96 percent of the absentee vote. Newsome himself faced pressure to resign as a consequence. Reynolds was sentenced to serve six months in a community corrections facility. She is appealing the conviction.
Venustiano Hernandez-Hernandez, an illegal immigrant, registered to vote under the name Severo Benavidez in 1984 and voted in the 1996 and 2008 general elections, the 2002 primary election, and special elections in 2003 and 2009. After being deported in 1974, he obtained a false birth certificate, which he used to collect Social Security disability benefits and register to vote. As part of a plea deal, Hernandez-Hernandez admitted to having committed all of the charged conduct, and pleaded guilty to social security fraud and theft of public money (the voter fraud charges were dropped in exchange for his plea to the other charges). Prosecutors surmised that Hernandez-Hernandez received approximately $80,000 in disability payments between 2008 and 2012. As a result of his stolen identity, the real Severo Benevidez was denied Social Security payments. Hernandez-Hernandez was scheduled to be sentenced on December 17, 2012.
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Shelia Pritchett, of Phenix City, was charged with two counts of second-degree forgery and two counts of absentee ballot fraud stemming from illegal activity while working for a 2012 candidate for municipal office. Pritchett pleaded guilty to all four counts and was sentenced to 22 months of probation, and fined $2,500. A spokeswoman for the Russell County district attorney confirmed the disposition of this case.
Stephanie Elias, of Columbus, was charged with four counts of second-degree forgery and four counts of absentee ballot fraud stemming from illegal activity while working for a 2012 candidate for municipal office in Phenix City. Elias pleaded guilty to all eight counts and was sentenced to 22 months of probation, and fined $2,500. A spokeswoman for the Russell County district attorney confirmed confirmed the disposition of this case.
Ms. Berry pleaded guilty and received a two-year suspended sentence. The former Pike County Commissioner narrowly won--and then lost--her 2008 reelection bid when 10 absentee ballots were found to have been fraudulently cast in the election. Ms. Berry was charged with mailing an illegal absentee ballot.
Gay Nell Tinker, a former circuit clerk for Hale County, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of absentee ballot fraud after her scheme to orchestrate fraudulent absentee ballots for the benefit of multiple candidates was uncovered. She admitted to falsifying the ballots of five voters to benefit certain candidates, including her brother, Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins, and her husband, Senator Bobby Singleton (D_Greensboro).
Valada Paige Banks and Rosie Lyles pleaded guilty to third-degree possession of a forged affidavit of an absentee ballot with intent to defraud. They both received 12-month suspended sentences and two years of probation and were ordered to pay court fees.
The Birmingham Office of the U.S. Attorney and the Alabama Attorney General conducted an extensive joint investigation of absentee ballot fraud allegations in Greene County in the November 1994 election. By the end of the investigation, nine defendants pleaded guilty to voter fraud and two others were found guilty by a jury. The defendants included Greene County commissioners, officials, and employees; a racing commissioner; a member of the board of education; a Eutaw city councilman; and other community leaders. The conspiracy included using an assembly line to mass produce forged absentee ballots meant to swing elections in favor of preferred candidates.
Crayton was convicted of impersonation fraud for illegally voting in her sister's name during the 2002 election. She was caught when her sister tried to vote and the poll workers at the precinct found that her name had already been marked as having voted. Crayton pleaded guilty and received a two-year prison sentence, which was reduced to time already served plus two years' probation.
The Supreme Court of Alabama overturned the mayoral election results for the City of Guntersville, Alabama after finding that absentee ballots cast without proper identification should have been excluded.
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Nathaniel Gosha was convicted of 25 counts (nine felony counts of falsifying ballots and 16 counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument) of voter fraud for offering to sell absentee votes in Russell County. Another Russell County resident, Lizzie Mae Perry, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of falsifying absentee ballots and two misdemeanor counts of disclosing votes. Gosha was sentenced to 180 days in jail, 4.5 years of probation, and $2,600 in court fines. Perry was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 18 months' probation.
Melvin Lightning pleaded guilty to illegal absentee voting. Along with Evans, Lightning forged absentee ballot request forms in the name of other voters. Upon receiving the ballots, the pair took them to the named voters and obtained their signatures on the ballot envelope without telling the voters that they were signing an actual ballot. Lightning then completed and cast the ballots himself. He received a 12-month prison sentence, which was suspended in favor of 12 months' probation. His accomplice, Evans, was convicted in 1998 on seven counts of illegal absentee voting. He got a 10-year prison sentence, eight of which were suspended.
An absentee-ballot buying operation was uncovered in Winston County, Alabama, that led to the conviction of the sheriff, circuit clerk, a district judge, and several candidates for county commission and the board of education. The conspirators set out to buy absentee ballots in the 2000 Republican primary with bribes of cash, beer, and liquor. Judge Richardson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to report campaign expenditures; the others pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from the operation. Bailey was sentenced to three years' probation, plus a $1,000 fine and 250 hours of community service. Neal got three years' probation, a $2,500 fine, and 250 hours' community service. Ingram was ordered to serve a year in prison and pay a $1,000 fine. Emerson got two years' probation. Judge Richardson resigned, and received a suspended six-month prison sentence, one year probation, and a $1,000 fine.