- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

BERKELEY, Mo. (AP) - The FBI and St. Louis County prosecutors are investigating allegations of absentee ballot voter fraud involving the mayor of the St. Louis suburb of Berkeley, a newspaper reported Monday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2f0m12m ) reported that it obtained emails and other documents revealing details of the investigation into Mayor Theodore Hoskins involving the April mayoral race.

Some voters have complained that Hoskins or someone from his campaign picked up absentee ballots for the election that weren’t in sealed envelopes as required by law, St. Louis County Board of Elections Director Eric Fey said. Some residents have also reported that Hoskins instructed them not to seal ballot envelopes before he could retrieve them, Fey said.

Hoskins denies the allegations and said they’re being fueled by his opponents.

Hoskins was running for re-election against two other candidates on the April 5 ballot, winning by 13 votes out of almost 1,200 cast. Fey said an FBI agent and a St. Louis County police detective watched as election workers opened envelopes from voters in some precincts on Election Day. He said it appeared that a small number of ballots had been altered, and the alterations had a result that, to his recollection, benefited Hoskins or his political allies.

“There were different colored inks and some where the ovals were filled in a very distinct fashion and some that were filled in a very different distinct fashion,” Fey said. “Things that you just don’t see on other ballots.”

It’s a felony in Missouri to knowingly alter, deface, damage, destroy or conceal any ballot that has been filled out. It is a misdemeanor for anyone except an election authority employee to have possession of a ballot that has been filled out.

The Board of Elections was so worried about the allegations that Fey and former Republican Director Gary Fuhr visited an absentee voter during the April election to retrieve her ballot. Fey said this was done to let people know the board takes complaints seriously and wants people to have confidence in the voting process. The board was informed after the voter complained that Hoskins and his daughter offered to mail in her absentee ballot.

Judges in St. Louis have ordered new elections for two Aug. 2 races in the past two months in response to lawsuits. Judges said the initial contests were tainted because the board did not require all absentee ballots to be in sealed envelopes.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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