Ohio aids probe of bogus voter registry forms

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has joined the investigation of a man charged with filing more than 100 fictitious voter registration forms who was paid in crack by a woman affiliated with the NAACP National Voter Fund.

Defiance County Sheriff Dave Westrick said yesterday he requested the state’s assistance, given that some names in the probe involve individuals and organizations in “other counties” of Ohio.

Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, confirmed that her office is helping in the investigation.

“Agents from our Bureau of Identification and Investigation are working on this case at the request of the Defiance County Sheriff’s Office. It’s Defiance County’s investigation. We’re providing investigative services for Sheriff Westrick,” Ms. Norris said.

On Monday, the sheriff’s office arrested and charged Chad Staton, 22, of Defiance, with false registration, a fifth-degree felony. He was released on his own recognizance and has a hearing set for Friday.

The sheriff’s office said Mr. Staton was hired by a Toledo woman, Georgianne Pitts, who, they said, admitted paying Mr. Staton in crack cocaine. Miss Pitts said she was recruited by Thaddeus J. Jackson II of Cleveland.

Mr. Jackson was identified on a business card that Miss Pitts provided police as assistant Ohio director of the NAACP NFV.

Capt. Mike Murphy, spokesman for the Toledo Police, said authorities were attempting to locate Miss Pitts yesterday.

In an interview with the Toledo Blade, Mr. Jackson said Miss Pitts was a volunteer with the NVF. He said he knew of no fraud involving any of the registration forms she submitted.

George Forbes, head of the NAACP’s Cleveland branch and a former Cleveland city councilman, said yesterday: “I know Thaddeus Jackson. But there is no connection between the Cleveland NAACP and Thaddeus Jackson’s [NVF] operation.”

The NAACP NVF and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are two separate organizations.

In a statement yesterday, Greg Moore, executive director of the District-based NVF, expressed “shock” at the arrest.

“This matter deserves the attention of law enforcement. If laws have been violated, then legal action should be taken against the people who are responsible,” Mr. Moore said.

He added: “The NAACP NVF has detailed guidelines, outlining procedures that should be followed by its volunteers. … [A]ny person who works on behalf of NVF is required to abide by those guidelines and to all applicable federal and state laws.”

Laura Howell, deputy director for the Defiance County Board of Elections, said one of the 130 registration forms traced to Mr. Staton bore his name. Others, she said, had names such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Michael Jordan and Janet Jackson.

“We noticed a similarity in handwriting on the forms, and only a very few turned out to be legitimate registrations,” she said.

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