Clerk Asks for Investigation of Absentee Voting

An investigation is being launched into alleged voting irregularities in Sumter County.

Circuit Clerk Edmond Bell has requested the district attorney investigate what he says is mainly the exploitation of elderly voters.

The alleged voting irregularities involve hundreds of absentee ballots.

"I noticed that a lot of people are not adhering to what it means to vote absentee," said Bell.

In some cases, Bell says one person requested absentee ballots for about 100 voters. After all the forms were filled out, that same person who requested the applications from his office also mailed them back.

"It's a means of controlling five or six votes, or in some cases, 15 to 20 votes," Bell said. "One person!"

The circuit clerk says 80% of the absentee voting applications are requested by people who do not live in the house with the absentee voter who will receive the ballot. In fact, he says in most cases these individuals are not even in the voter's immediate family.

Bell says another problem is that many absentee voters have committed crimes, and likely, without knowing it. He says this is often because they fail to read the back of the absentee voting application.

In these cases, he says some absentee voters have stated that they will be out of the county on election day.

"Actually, they'll come into the office and the courthouse on election day," said Bell.

At Bell's request, within coming weeks, the district attorney's office has agreed to come to Sumter County to look into the matter. For some violators, this could lead to jail time.

"It's a very good possibility that could happen based on the information we have," Bell said.

Bell says there are about eight legal reasons that a person is allowed to vote absentee. They include: the voter being out of the county on election day, being in the military, their work schedule conflicts, or they are ill.

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