A Hamilton County poll worker has been accused of electioneering including pre-selecting a voter’s ballot as ‘straight Democrat.’
Democratic Party poll worker James Zheng has been removed from the Mercy Church polling station in Carmel after accusations came forward where he pressured voters not to support Republican-endorsed candidates for Carmel Clay school board.
Hamilton County election administrator Beth Sheller stated that the poll inspector had learned of two separate incidents last week that could qualify as election interference.
The first incident was reported after Zheng spoke to a pair of black voters inside the polling station urging them not to vote for Republican candidates because they are ‘racists.’ The couple reported the incident to a campaign worker standing outside of the polling station. The campaign worker relayed the interaction to polling station workers inside.
The second incident Zheng is being accused of involves potential election interference. The inspector was told that while Zheng was assisting a voter with an electronic ballot he pressed the “straight Democrat ticket” option. The voter was confused how to change the selection, and another poll worker had to resolve the issue to allow the voter to cast a legitimate ballot.
Hamilton Co. GOP Chairman Mario Massillamany released a statement confirming he has been “in communication with local election officials to make sure poll workers are reminded that such activity, called electioneering, is illegal.”
The Hamilton Co. Democrats also released a statement that accuses the GOP of “trying to sow last-minute doubt into the integrity of our elections.”
Zheng denied both claims in an open letter to the county’s election board. He said he would come forward and testify, under oath, about any of the “false allegations.”
The Democratic Party along with Zheng are pointing fingers at Republican activists for electioneering by being too close to the voting location. Zheng in his statement said he had his own encounters of Republican activists breaking the law.
“Mercy Road Church’s voting machines are placed right in front of outside clear glass windows to the north and west. I observed persons just outside the windows with red t-shirts containing the names of Republican-endorsed Carmel school board candidates. I reported this issue…The Inspector did not take any action and did not ask these people just outside the clear glass window to move.”
Zheng has been removed as a poll worker. The Hamilton County sheriff’s office in investigating.
Jake Nichols, Carmel Clay School board candidate for District 3 told Tony Katz he believes leaving the investigation to authorities is the right approach.
“Certainly, something happened, or it wouldn’t have been brought up. What actually happened and what occurs next is going to be up to the authorities.”
Listen to Nichols full interview here.
Stephanie Flittner, Carmel Clay School board candidate for District 1, told Tony Katz not just as a candidate, but as a voter she believes an investigation is vital.
“As a voter in Carmel I want to know, was this person paid? Who referred him? What was his background? What was done to prevent this? How was he trained? I want to know if this is one bad apple or if this is a pattern that we need to worry about. We need answers to those questions before we can know whether that polling site, or really any of our polling sites are secure.”
Listen to Flittner’s full interview here.
In regard to the integrity of the election, specifically the voting poll at Mercy Church, Tony Katz asked several Carmel Clay School board candidates if they would want these votes recalled.
Dr. Adam Sharp, Carmel Clay School board candidate for District 2, told Katz he isn’t concerned.
“I have complete confidence in our election process system in Hamilton County… I am not concerned that there were enough potential votes to influence this election by this single individual to change the outcome of this election. And I don’t think we should discount the votes.”
Sharp says if the investigation reveals a more widespread electioneering issue, he will revisit the recall idea. Both Flittner and Nichols echoed this sentiment.
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