ELYRIA — A county judge has asked Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will to launch an investigation into voters whose ballots the judge ruled were illegally cast in the 2015 Democratic primary for Lorain City Council’s 2nd Ward.
“I am writing you now to advise you that I determined that certain individuals voted illegally in that election,” county Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski wrote in a letter Monday.
“I am requesting that you review the materials contained in this letter, the evidence admitted during the trial of this matter, and any other information available through your office’s investigation, and determine whether any individuals should be prosecuted for their actions during the 2015 Lorain City Primary election.”
Betleski had promised to write the letter in September 2015 after he overturned the results of the election and leading to Democratic Councilman Dennis Flores earning another term.
On Election Night, unofficial results showed Flores winning the election with 151 votes compared with 131 votes for opponent Ryan Horn and 100 votes for Joseph Smith.
The results changed when provisional ballots were counted, and Horn ended up receiving 153 votes compared with the 152 votes cast in Flores’ favor.
Flores sued, claiming voter fraud and Betleski determined that nine of the votes that had been cast for Horn came from people who were ineligible to vote in the primary. Once those votes were removed from the count, Flores was declared the winner of the primary and went on to win his unopposed general election in the fall.
Gerald Phillips, Flores’ attorney, has long complained that Betleski didn’t write the letter sooner and had sent out his own letters to Will’s office and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted asking for an investigation.
“I’m glad he did it. I wish he would have done it a little sooner,” Phillips said Monday.
Betleski determined that several people didn’t live at the addresses where they claimed to have lived on registration paperwork filed with the county Board of Elections, something that is considered a felony under Ohio law.
Some of the voters had been evicted from the addresses they used, while others had listed addresses where no one actually lived or used addresses from locations where they didn’t actually live.
Horn has denied wrongdoing or having any knowledge of improper voting and conceded the election to Flores following Betleski’s ruling. He declined comment Monday.
Betleski also wrote that there were matters involving Horn’s father, Tony Horn, who owned several of the properties listed as addresses for the allegedly fraudulent voters, that he thought Will should examine including whether he improperly claimed certain tax benefits.
The elder Horn exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about owner-occupant tax credits he claimed on three properties in Cuyahoga County during the 2015 trial. Horn had said earlier in the trial that he lived in Lorain, although at a different address than what he listed on his voter registration paperwork.
Will said he will assign an investigator from his office to look into the allegations raised in Betleski’s letter and to check with Lorain police to see what the status is of an investigation they launched in 2015 into the election results.
“I will have someone investigate it so we can look at all the facts,” he said.
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