5 questionable voter-registration forms found in Bartholomew County

Voters are being urged to stay positive after Bartholomew was listed as one of 56 Indiana counties being investigated for possible voter registration fraud.

Five suspicious registration forms have been submitted to the Voter Registration office in Columbus, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.

“It’s not like we’ve seen a lot of handwritten phony registrations,” Phelps said Friday.

Fraudulent information being submitted in Indiana as well as in 12 other states, includes real names paired with made-up or incorrect addresses and birth dates, according to the Indiana State Police.

In Bartholomew County, the suspicious forms had four things in common that made them stand out, Phelps said.

All the registrations came from Marion County.

All required information was not submitted.

The handwriting looked the same.

When a phone inquiry was made, the person who answered hung up.

Unless those five voters can be reached to verify their registration information prior to Wednesday, they will not be allowed to cast ballots, Phelps said.

Due to photo ID requirements, absentee mail-in ballots appear to be the only way fraudulent votes could be cast. As of Thursday, 162 such ballots had been received by Phelps’ office.

Rather than have an impact on local election outcomes, the greater concern is that a handful of residents might not find out until Nov. 8 that their voter information has been altered, Phelps said.

Such action may result in the person having to cast a provisional ballot, according to state law.

An investigation of the Indiana Voter Registration Project in downtown Indianapolis started last month when at least 10 voter registration forms were confirmed to have fraudulent information. They were among thousands of forms the project submitted to registration offices in Marion and Hendricks counties.

On Tuesday, state police served a search warrant on the Voter Registration Project office. The investigation was then expanded to include seven counties.

State police announced Thursday evening that the investigation had been expanded to a majority of Indiana’s 92 counties, including Bartholomew.

“Since investigators are not saying how many people may be affected, several other county clerks are real upset now,” Phelps said. “While we don’t share those worries, it’s frustrating because we are trying to reassure voters and poll workers the election is going to go smoothly.”

An organization under investigation for possible voter registration fraud in nine counties has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into whether Indiana officials have tried to suppress black votes.

Craig Varoga, president of Washington, D.C.-based Patriot Majority, said Tuesday’s raid was part of a partisan effort to suppress the voting rights of tens of thousands of African-Americans.

State police spokesman Capt. Dave Bursten said the Patriot Majority’s request wasn’t surprising and ISP’s investigation has followed all proper procedures.

Protecting your vote

All Bartholomew County voters are being urged to confirm the accuracy of their voter registration information before voter registration ends at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Those with online access can quickly check by going to indianavoters.in.gov, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.

“If they just type in their county, first and last name, and date of birth, it will pull up their registration information,” Phelps said.

Accuracy can also be checked over the telephone by calling the county’s voter registration office at 812-379-1604.

If fraudulent information is discovered, you can either notify Phelps’ staff or call the 24-hour Indiana State Police Voter Registration Application Fraud tip line at 888-603-3147.

The Secretary of State Office is also available to assist weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm. It can be reached by calling 866-461-8683.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.