Local Politics

Voting fraud suspects claim they weren't trying to cheat

Posted August 11, 2011

— Three people were charged Thursday with voter fraud after authorities determined that they voted twice in Wake County in the 2008 election, and a fourth was charged with voting twice last year, officials said.

Cherie Poucher, executive director of the Wake County Board of Elections, said evidence showed all three voted early and on Election Day.

The elections board turned the case over to the Wake County District Attorney's Office to investigate and pursue criminal charges, Poucher said.

Shelia Ramona Hodges, 46, and Kierra Fontae Leach, 26, both of 2707 Pheiffer Drive, Brandon Earl McLean, 25, of 2900 Bethune Drive, and Lela Devonetta Murray, 55, of 3201 Edwards Mill Road, each face a felony charge of voter fraud. District Attorney Colon Willoughby said more arrests are possible.

"One of the bedrocks of our democracy is that we have fair and open elections, and I think this goes to the fabric of fairness and the public's perception of the credibility of open elections," Willoughby said.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 months in prison.

Warrants state that Hodges and McLean both cast early ballots at Chavis Heights Community Center and then voted on Election Day at their regular polling places. Meanwhile, Leach filed a "no-excuse absentee ballot" on Oct. 29, 2008, and then voted six days later at a polling place on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to an arrest warrant.

Poucher said the large turnout in 2008 made it difficult for precinct workers to check off all of the early voters from the rolls of eligible voters.

Voter turnout in the 2008 election was 69 percent statewide, which officials said was one of the highest in decades. Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain by fewer than 15,000 votes out of more than 4.3 million ballots cast in the presidential race in North Carolina.

Murray voted on Election Day last November at the Green Road Park Community Center and then cast a provisional ballot at Stough Elementary School, an arrest warrant states.

McLean and his fiancee Leach admit to participating in early voting in the 2008 election. Unsure about the process on Election Day, they said they went to the polls to make sure their vote counted. 

"I was confused and did not know," McLean said. "This is my second time voting for a president in my life." 

Leach said she even told a poll worker about it. 

"We told her we had already early voted, and we just wanted to make sure it counted," Leach said. "She said, 'If you have a ballot, then go ahead and vote.' And that is what we did. We did not think anything of it." 

McLean said they were not trying to cheat the system. 

After this ordeal, McLean said he thinks voting should be simplified and have tougher checks and balances.

Republican lawmakers backed legislation this year calling for voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, saying the requirement would combat voter fraud. Democrats argued that cases of voter fraud were rare and that the ID requirement would only add a hurdle for many voters, such as college students, the elderly and the poor.

Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the voter ID bill, and the House fell short last month in its effort to override the veto.

Willoughby said the charges against the four don't involve a case of someone voting under someone else's name, which the ID legislation targeted.

Poucher said the Wake County elections board referred fewer than 10 names to prosecutors in 2008-10 for suspected voter fraud, which she said proves that the existing system works.

601 Comments

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  • Plenty Coups Aug 12, 7:17 p.m.

    rebelbelle-"The poll workers should have been able to tell that they had voted."

    Thanks for offering your insight. One of the articles I read anbout this stated that due to heavy volume in the Obama election, they weren't able to keep up with all the early voters adequately. Let me ask you though, some of the extremists here claim that swarms of illegals and felons, who may use fake registrations, regularly descend on the polls. Have you seen any evidence of this?

  • rebelbelle Aug 12, 6:36 p.m.

    As a poll worker, I have two observations:

    In our county, at least, the poll books show those who have voted early. The poll workers should have been able to tell that they had voted.

    We are told that if someone insists, they are to be allowed to vote a provisional ballot. Those do not go into the machine. Instead, the marked ballot is put into an envelope to be investigated and then hand-counted if they are valid. We had a man from Connecticut come off I-95 to vote for president in one election! I seriously doubt that one was counted!

    As for ID being required, as a part of the provisional process, we do ask for photo ID. I was given a drivers license with an address that I was pretty sure did not exist. The ballot went into the provisional envelope. I annotated the envelope that the address was possibly bogus.

  • Aug 12, 6:08 p.m.

    "Thank you for commenting. Your message will be reviewed by a moderator and posted to the site if it adheres to our posting guidelines."

    Being Republican doesn't adhere to their guidelines!
    So a lot of post were not posted on golo because they are afraid of the REPUBLICANS...we gonna get the White House back...yeah!

  • Aug 12, 6:06 p.m.

    Oops! Wral, there is another one or two now - gonna post that?

  • Aug 12, 6:05 p.m.

    "I bet they all voted Democrat."

    Ya Think? And democrats are oh sooooooo goood! NOT

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 12, 5:25 p.m.

    Would of lost that bet, only 594, but if all the comment would of gotten posted I sure it would of gone over 600.

  • joeydirtwood Aug 12, 5:10 p.m.

    I was being funny,I really don't think these folks would fit in with the tea baggers

  • Nancy Aug 12, 4:15 p.m.

    Only took three years to find them at fault for double voting.

    Wonder how many lost their votes to someone else voting in their name? No way to track that.

  • haggis basher Aug 12, 3:57 p.m.

    "These three darn tea baggers are so wrong.they must be stopped with this vote fraud."

    the tea baggers didn't exist in 2008, they didn't start coming out of the woodwork until the nation had the temerity to elect someone who didn't look like them.

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 12, 3:56 p.m.

    Wow up to 590 comments so far, I'm betting it'll hit 600 before some get off of work today.

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