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Official says Lincoln County voters not dead

Lincoln County Prosecutor W.J. Stevens said Thursday an investigation by his office turned up no proof that any dead people were named on county absentee voter rolls in the May primary.

"After a thorough investigation, I have concluded that each individual on the list is in fact alive," Stevens said in a press release.  "I have either spoken in person to each person on the list or to family members who have confirmed the birth date and address of the voter, and also confirmed that the voter in question is, in fact, alive."

County Commissioner Charles Vance had said that he recognized the names of at least 11 dead people on absentee voter rolls for the May 7 primary. Vance, a physician, said at least three were his former patients.

"It is my sincere hope that before these types of allegations are made in the future that any individual making these allegations first make them to my office so they may be properly investigated," Stevens said. "Unfortunately, once made public, allegations of dead people voting serve to cast a dark shadow over Lincoln County."

Vance could not be reached for comment Thursday.

On May 19, Vance told the Daily Mail he had received a report "from around the courthouse that there might be at least 80 (dead) people on that list."

One Lincoln County official suggested Vance may indeed have seen names that were the same as patients of his, but that others in Lincoln may have the same name and be alive.

Vance declined several requests to release the names of the voters he suspected were dead. He did say that he had turned them over to the Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office.

Tennant has repeatedly said her office is prohibited by law from commenting on an investigation or even confirming that one exists.

Despite Stevens' statement disputing Vance's claim, other questions about the election persist.

Lincoln County is under scrutiny because of the unusually large number of absentee ballots requested. More than 800 absentee ballots were sent out by the county clerk's office, compared to about 200 typically requested there. Other, much larger counties reported only a fraction of the number of absentee ballot requests.

An attorney for two candidates who lost in the primary said Wednesday that suspicious activity on more than 100 absentee ballot applications went unchecked by the county clerk.

The attorney, Harvey Peyton, is representing incumbent circuit clerk Charles Brumfield and county commission challenger Phoebe Harless.

Of those absentee ballots, about 90 percent favored one faction of Democratic candidates  - including incumbent County Commissioner Thomas Ramey Jr. and Jerry Bowman, the current sheriff who is a candidate for clerk.

After the absentee votes were counted, Bowman had defeated Brumfield. Ramey won over Harless, who the week before the election had raised concerns about the high number of absentee ballots.

Ramey has said part of his campaign was to encourage people to vote who couldn't get to the polls on Election Day because they had out-of-county work or because they were shut in.

But Peyton, who is preparing legal challenges to the election, said after reviewing ballot applications his office found more than 100 apparent violations in how the ballots were filled out that should have been caught by County Clerk Donald Whitten, who campaigned with Ramey and Bowman.

For instance, Peyton said state law requires - and the absentee ballot application itself says - that if a voter plans to be unable to vote in person 20 days prior to the election or on Election Day, the applicant is required to provide an out-of-county address. These addresses were not included on about 125 applications, Peyton said.

Peyton also said five members of the same family filled out applications saying their work hours would keep them away from the polls. The catch, Peyton said, is that none of them works.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at"> or 304-348-1796.



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