Sullivan Co. voter fraud probe fizzles

J. H. Osborne • Sep 1, 2011 at 3:42 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — An investigation of allegedly illegally registered voters, instigated after Administrator of Elections Jason Booher claimed voter fraud had occurred in Sullivan County for years, showed nothing to justify spending any more resources on the allegations, according to a Sullivan County grand jury report issued this week. Shortly after taking office in 2009, Booher publicly called for an investigation into information given to him by state election officials that he said indicated about 100 felons fraudulently registered, were registered still, and voted in the county — some going back as far as the early 1960s. Booher said work by the Tennessee Election Coordinator’s Office had spurred a statewide, county-by-county effort to identify convicted felons who should not be on voting rolls — and he wanted the Sullivan County Election Commission to ask then District Attorney Greeley Wells to prosecute the individuals for fraudulently registering to vote, and therefore fraudulently voting — in cases that had not passed the four-year statute of limitations. Booher later publicly said he’d turned 86 names over to Wells — and that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was on the case. The TBI’s presentation to the grand jury revealed most of the people identified for investigation by Booher — 55 of the 86 — had not actually voted since being convicted of a felony and having registered to vote, according to the grand jury report dated Aug. 30. Twenty-six had voted — some of whom had truthfully noted their felony conviction on a voter registration application, and some of whom had answered falsely. Two of the total 86 were dead. Another has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. And two more had their voting rights legally restored. “Those who had voted were interviewed, and each gave an explanation which was not unreasonable or unbelievable and did not show any intent to violate the law,” the grand jury’s report states. “Some had admitted being convicted of a felony and allowed to register anyway, and at least one was never asked if convicted of a felony. Seeing no intent on the part of these people to violate the law, seeing no evidence that anything was done which would undermine the public confidence of the results of any election, and seeing no evidence of any attempt to influence the outcome of an election, the grand jury felt that none of these cases merited the further expenditure of state resources.”

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