Federal prosecutors set up Southeast Missouri hot line for voter fraud, intimidation

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Federal prosecutors announced a Southeast Missouri telephone hot line Wednesday for reporting voter fraud or intimidation as part of a national effort to protect voting rights.

In a news conference at the federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau, federal prosecutor Catherine Hanaway said the the hot line is designed to make sure the upcoming election is fair.

"The core of our purpose is to make it as easy as possible to vote and as tough as possible to cheat," Hanaway said.

There have been no cases of voter fraud -- defined as voter impersonation, vote buying or multiple voting -- in Missouri in recent years, said Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for the Missouri secretary of state's office. There have been instances of individuals being prosecuted for attempting to submit fraudulent voter registrations, he said.

"They were caught before they were put on the rolls," he said.

Both Hobart and Hanaway said their offices are cooperating to combat voter fraud or intimidation.

On Nov. 4, Missourians will go to the polls to make their choices for president, governor and local county offices. Voter registration in many areas is at record levels.

Hanaway said her office has not prosecuted any cases of voter fraud in recent years but has prosecuted individuals employed by ACORN for submitting invalid voter registration. ACORN leaders have worked closely with her office to uncover the fraudulent registrations, she said, and taken actions suggested by her office to prevent a repeat of the problems.

And she said a new case recently investigated uncovered 50 fraudulent voter registration attempts in St. Charles County, one of Missouri's largest.

Voter intimidation is defined as attempts to prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots.

The hot line is not set up to answer questions about whether an individual is registered or where polling places are, Hanaway said. Those questions should be directed to local election authorities or a special website set up by the Missouri Secretary of State's office at govotemissouri.com.

The hot line for reporting voter fraud or intimidation in Southeast Missouri is 573-331-0503. Complaints about ballot access or discrimination can be made directly to the department's Civil Rights Division at 800-253-3931.

The Missouri secretary of state's office also has a hot line for voting problems at 800-669-8683.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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