DA Looking Into Issue Of County Commission Candidate's Campaign Sending Filled-Out Requests For Absentee Ballot To Elderly Voters

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The District Attorney's Office has been provided with documents that a County Commission candidate's campaign sent filled-out requests for absentee ballots to elderly voters.

Kerry Steelman, election administrator, said there have been four instances in which such requests came from the Elect John Brooks campaign. He said state law says in Section 2-6-202:  (3) A person who is not an employee of an election commission commits a Class E felony if such person gives an application for an absentee ballot to any person. (4) A person who is not an employee of an election commission commits a Class A misdemeanor if such person gives an unsolicited request for application for absentee ballot to any person.

Mr. Brooks, who is seeking to get back the County Commission District 6 seat from Joe Graham, said he received a call from Mr. Steelman about the issue about two weeks ago. He said at the time he told campaign workers to discontinue the practice.

The attorney and former chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party said other candidates have followed the same tactic. "Fred Thompson started it," he said.

He said he believes the law on the subject is "probably unconstitutional." He said, "It used to be a common practice."

One elderly person said she and her husband received a letter in the mail from John Allen Brooks containing what they thought was an election ballot. Her son-in-law came over and examined it. He said it was an application for an absentee by mail ballot.

It was already filled out with the name of the elderly person and it requested a Democratic ballot.

There was included a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Election Commission.

All the person had to do was sign the application, put it in the envelope and mail it.

Mr. Steelman said his office received two such letters. He said the return address was Elect John Brooks. He said a third was brought in by a candidate and a fourth by a relative of an elderly person who had gotten the letter.

Election Commissioner Chris Clem said, "It certainly sounds inappropriate for a candidate to try to get people to vote by absentee ballot."

He said, "You can have a lot of abuses if you allow candidates to solicit ballots and help people fill them out."

Mr. Steelman said if a person applies for an absentee ballot by mail, then later decides to vote in person, then they could only vote by mail.

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