Nobody knows nuttin’ about the blatant cash-for-votes scheme involving the Ohio University College Democrats and the Athens County Democratic Party in Athens, Ohio.
They are all playing dumb and/or pointing fingers at each other. If it walks like a voter fraud scheme and smells like a voter fraud scheme, well, you know. Via The Athens News:
Ohio’s top Democrat this morning chided Athens County Democratic Party Chair Susan Gwinn for allegedly running a campaign that promised $5 cash bonuses to Ohio University student Democrats for helping to get out the vote. Meanwhile, the county party’s treasurer said he knew nothing about the program and doesn’t approve of it.
In an unusually strongly worded statement, Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “The Ohio Democratic Party had no role in this stupid idea, and I urge Athens County Chairwoman Susan Gwinn to suspend the program immediately and not issue any payments that may have been planned. I call for a complete investigation and prosecution for any wrongdoing in this case.”
In the latter respect, Redfern appears on the same page as Athens County Republican Party Chair Pete Couladis, who issued a release Monday night asking the county Board of Elections and county prosecutor to investigate an alleged offer by the College Democrats to pay people to vote.
As the story developed overnight, however, it became apparent that the get-out-the-vote financial inducements were for getting others to vote, rather than paying people directly. The latter question is the apparent focus of an ongoing investigation Athens County Prosecutor C. David Warren, who earlier today said he’s looking into whether it’s illegal to pay canvassers to bring in other voters.
A representatives for the College Democrats said Monday that an e-mail cited as evidence has been misconstrued, and that nobody intended to offer anyone money to vote. In a follow-up news release late Monday night, Chris Mullen, communication director for the College Democrats, seemed to lay the blame for the get-out-the-vote cash bonuses on the county party.
“The GOTV (get-out-the-vote) program that has triggered the false reports was an effort by the Athens County Democratic Party to compensate volunteers financially for their time spent canvassing,” Mullen wrote. “This program was sponsored by the county Democratic Party, and was not originated by the College Democrats.”
He added that the OU College Democrats have not raised or spent any money to pay volunteers. “To date in this election cycle, no member of the group has received a dime for his or her canvassing work,” Mullen wrote. He said any questions about the program should be directed to Gwinn.
Gwinn could not be reached for comment Monday night or Tuesday morning. However, she told the Columbus Dispatch Tuesday that any plan to pay get-out-the-voter volunteers never went past the discussion stage. “The whole situation has been blown out of proportion,” she told the Dispatch. “I have no idea why (Galan) wrote that e-mail. There’s really nothing going on here.”
Tell it to Athens County law enforcement officials. They’re now investigating. At the state level, though, there’s not much hope. Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland is soft on corruption. And remember that last fall, Ohio was up to its eyeballs in voter fraud cases while ACORN-friendly Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was found guilty of election law violations two times.
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