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VERNON — An alleged fraudulent absentee ballot in Jennings County soon will be turned over to the prosecutor for investigation.
The county’s bipartisan election board voted unanimously Nov. 12 to turn the matter over to Prosecutor Alan Marshall.
At the center of the challenge made by the county Republican Party is Benjamin Cook’s absentee ballot.
Cook is a 22-year-old Jennings County native and Marine stationed in California.
According to Tracey Pike, chairwoman for the Republican Party, Cook claimed in a signed affidavit that he did not apply for an absentee ballot and certainly did not vote in the recent election.
Furthermore, Pike reported that Cook claims he is not even registered to vote in Jennings County.
On Election Day, Republican officials contested the ballot when it arrived at its designated polling location.
Before that, the Jennings County Absentee Board produced an absentee ballot application signed by Cook, which the Marine denies ever seeing.
The issue first got Cook’s attention after his father, John Cook, appeared holding a photo of his son in a newspaper advertisement paid by the Democrat Central Committee.
The ad referenced a challenge Republicans had recently made to throw out 245 absentee ballot requests that were turned into the Jennings County Election Office by local Democrats well after the seven-day deadline.
The election board denied the request.
Pike said the ad accused Republicans of trying to disenfranchise voters in Jennings County.
According to the ad, Cook’s vote was one Republicans were trying to deny.
Instead, Republicans merely wanted rules and regulations to be followed, Pike claimed.
“They’re exploiting him … he did not wish to vote,” Pike said.
When asked for comment on the advertisement or the Republicans’ challenge of his son’s absentee ballot, John Cook said on Thursday he had hired an attorney and was not permitted to talk about it.
Ron Bloemer, the Jennings County clerk and member of the election board, reported on Tuesday that the board felt the Republicans presented clear actionable evidence of possible fraud.
So, the board opted to forward the case to the prosecutor’s office.
“It was the route we needed to take,” Bloemer said.
“The election board is not there to investigate anything … we’re there to review whatever the challenge is.”
Marshall could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Bloemer said Marshall is aware of the upcoming investigation, but might not have received the official written request.
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