The Delaware County Board of Elections is investigating dozens of potentially fraudulent registrations tied to the group hired to collect signatures for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative, and the organization has a history in Delaware County.
Three former employees of the Strategy Network are awaiting sentencing later this month for submitting false signatures on a petition to place a a measure on last November’s ballot that would have allowed a Polaris area Kroger to sell liquor on Sundays.
Felicia Dawson, Shampayne Thompson and Tiffany Gaston were all originally charged with one count of forgery and election falsification in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. All three have since agreed to plead guilty to one count of forgery, a fifth-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
The measure did not garner the 113 valid signatures needed to place it on the ballot in November.
A message left with The Strategy Network seeking comment was not returned.
More than 200 new voters registrations were recently filed with the board of elections by The Strategy Network, which has been collecting signatures for ResponsibleOhio’s proposed ballot initiative that would legalize the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
Karla Herron, deputy director of the board of elections, said several of those registrations have raised suspicions.
Some registrations, Herron said, appear to be in the handwriting of two or three individuals. On others, the signatures do not match with those the board of elections has on file. In some cases, addresses do not match.
Delaware County is not the only place where The Strategy Group is suspected of submitting fraudulent voter registrations. Last month, Secretary of State Jon Husted sent out an advisory to all 88 county boards of elections, urging officials to closely review the registrations turned in by the group.
“As the state’s chief elections officer, I have a duty to work with our local boards of elections to ensure fairness at the ballot box and a primary component of that responsibility is to maintain clean voter rolls and establish safeguards against fraud,” Husted said in a press release. “ResponsibleOhio’s suspicious voter registration efforts seem to be simply another step in a growing trend of irresponsible behavior.”
ResponsibleOhio’s proposed constitutional amendment would limit growing to 10 regulated sites, including a Delaware County location, controlled by the wealthy interests behind the ballot measure. A seven-member “Marijuana Control Commission” would create and enforce regulations on the industry. Each level of the supply chain – from grower to retailer – would face a 15 percent tax, and most of that revenue would be distributed to local governments.