Voters report fake calls
Instructions to change polling place don't come from board of elections
Friday, October 22, 2004
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The caller interrupting a North Side couple's dinner earlier this week said he was from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
He told the elderly woman that her voting site had changed and that on Nov. 2 she and her husband should cast their ballots at a South Side precinct. The caller even left the phone number of the board.
Her husband, who didn't want their names published out of fear of retribution, called the board, sat through a long menu of automated options and finally spoke with an employee.
"They said there was no way in the world they would make such a call," he said. "I think it's hankypanky and somebody in the election is trying to kill some votes."
At no time, Elections Director Matthew Damschroder said, does the board call voters.
"The only communication from the board of elections is printed on official board of elections paper with the logo," he said.
"If they're saying they're the board of elections, that's a violation of the law. My recommendation to them would be to cease and desist."
His office has received about a dozen calls since last week from voters checking on similar calls.
Damschroder said there are two scams: The caller tells voters their precincts have changed or the caller offers to pick up an absentee-ballot application, deliver the ballot to the voter and return the completed ballot to the elections office.
By law, the elections board mails absentee ballots and the only deliveries are made to voters in nursing homes by both a Republican and Democratic elections worker. The only person who can return an absentee ballot, besides the voter, is an immediate family member.
"People are calling saying, 'I got a call last night when I was watching Oprah from this group,' " Damschroder said. "By law, the board of elections does not give anybody a ballot to deliver."
Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, said he hadn't heard about the scams. But he said he was glad to hear that voters who had received calls reported them to the elections board.
"Election fraud, voter intimidation or providing voters with wrong information is unacceptable," he said. "Anyone engaging in this activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"Anyone contemplating this type of malicious activity should think twice."
All county boards of elections already had planned to send cards informing voters of their voting precinct, Damschroder said, a move that could combat some of these calls.
"The cards will be dropped (in the mail) next Monday for delivery Wednesday," he said.