News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 19, 2014

Feds look into Sullivan primary ballots

FBI subpoenas documents, absentee ballots, all pertaining to May 6 primary election

TERRE HAUTE — Requested records have been submitted to federal investigators by the Sullivan County Clerk after a subpoena was served this week, seeking absentee ballots and other voter records from the May 6 primary election.

Clerk Peggy Goodman confirmed to the Tribune-Star on Thursday that two FBI agents presented her with the subpoena on Tuesday. She has since provided all of the records listed in the subpoena.

Goodman said she was told that neither she nor anyone in her office is under investigation related to the subpoena. The agents, however, provided no details on the nature of the investigation.

“I was surprised,” Goodman said of the federal inquiry. “There have been no recounts requested and the time is passed for that.”

The subpoena was issued June 9 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Goodman was ordered to appear July 8 with multiple records listed in the subpoena.

She said she has already turned those records over to the FBI, some of them on the day they were requested.

“Most of that stuff was pretty easy to get together,” she said.

The documents being sought all pertained to the May 6 primary election in Sullivan County. They were:

• All submitted absentee ballots.

• All envelopes, documents and signature cards showing absentee voter signatures who voted in that election.

• Certified election results for the whole primary.

• Certified election results by precinct.

• A list of all candidates in the primary

• A list of all registered voters in the county.

• A list of all precinct committeemen.

• The policy for absentee voting.

• The policy for storing absentee ballots

• The policy for issuing absentee ballots

• The policy for counting/omitting/discarding absentee ballots.

• A list of any individuals in contact with the absentee ballots.

Goodman explained that there are three ways to vote by absentee ballot. Voters can visit the clerk’s office in the courthouse during the scheduled voting hours prior to election day and cast a ballot using the electronic voting machines.

A voter can also fill out and submit an application for an absentee ballot to be sent to them by mail. The voter is then sent an instruction sheet, a sample ballot of the candidates, a voter bill of rights sheet and an official ballot to fill out and return in a postage-paid envelop.

Goodman said that mail carriers are instructed to hand-deliver all mailed ballots to a deputy in the clerk’s office, who can take those ballots directly to the voting room, where they are stored until being counted.

Lastly, a voter can also request that a travel board with one Democrat and one Republican go to the voter with the absentee ballot to be filled out. The travel board will then return the ballot to the clerk’s office.

Goodman said the application and ballot signature are compared to see if they match. All absentee ballots are kept locked up until they are counted on election day, she said.

“Our goal is to have those counted and ready to go up on the [tally] board by 6 p.m.,” she said. Votes from other precincts are then added to the board as they are announced.

Goodman said that in the case that a voter makes an error on an absentee ballot, such as voting for both candidates in a race rather than only one, the voting machine will not count the mistake, but will count the rest of the races that are filled out correctly.

As for the federal investigation, Goodman said she expects that it will take investigators a long time to review all of the absentee ballots and other records supplied by her office.

When contacted for comment about the federal investigation, Bill Springer, Republican Party chairman for Sullivan County, told the Tribune-Star that he believes there have been past voting irregularities.

“It’s went on for 20 years, and it’s time for it to stop,” Springer alleged.

The Democrat Party chairman for Sullivan County, Lynn Hamilton, disagrees.

“I feel that our elections have been ran perfectly,” Hamilton said. “We have good Democrats and good Republicans who work on those elections, and I trust them not to make mistakes.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office was contacted by the Tribune-Star for comment, but declined through an email, citing the active investigation.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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