Sheriff Jerry Bowman, 58, and Clerk Donald C. Whitten, 62, have admitted to the crime and agreed to plead guilty on Monday (30 January 2012) to charges of election fraud from the 2010 primary election.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said that Bowman admitted to falsifying more than 100 absentee ballot applications for voters who did not have a legal basis to vote absentee. After the false applications were processed, Bowman returned to many of those voters’ homes and was in the room with them while they voted, telling them which candidates he backed, Goodwin said. In at least six cases, Bowman himself marked the absentee ballots.
Whitten admitted to obstructing the investigation by lying about his role. He agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement. Bowman faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Whitten faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Both men have also resigned.
The most recent case of election fraud was discovered during an investigation in 2005, and two former Lincoln County officials, circuit clerk Greg Stowers and assessor Jerry Allen Weaver, were each sentenced to a year in prison for buying votes. Weaver, who was hired by the county assessor’s office after being released, recently filed to run for Lincoln County Sheriff.