Dems, Republicans allege voter fraud in Douglas County

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November 6th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Both the Republican and Democratic Party in Nebraska are alleging voter fraud in Douglas County this Election Day. The charges were made at a press conference this afternoon, which soon turned into a shouting match between party spokesmen.

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The Nebraska Democratic Party called a press conference in North Omaha this afternoon alleging it had received two complaints from voters in Douglas County. Vince Powers, the incoming chair of the statewide Democratic Party, said the voters had received ballots that were pre-marked for Republicans Mitt Romney and Lee Terry. “The one thing that I guess causes me the most concern,” Powers said, “I didn’t get a call from Scottsbluff, I didn’t get a call from Kearney…I got a call from Omaha and North Omaha where Dave Phipps is the election commissioner, and we all know the problems that occurred in the spring and the Primary.”

Nebraska Democrats called a press conference outside this polling site on 55th and Ames in North Omaha to allege voter fraud had taken place here. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

Powers was referring to Phipps’ decision to close several polling locations earlier this year. Phipps said it was a cost-saving measure. But the closures were concentrated in minority areas and Phipps later re-opened many of the sites after an outcry from community groups. Phipps, a Republican appointee of Governor Dave Heineman, was accused of attempting to suppress the vote in Democratic strongholds.

Kris Pierce, who chairs the Douglas County Democrats, said the closures caused confusion on Primary Day and have continued to cause confusion today. “Some voters right here in North Omaha have received up to three voter registration cards, all of them saying something different,” Pierce said. “That begs the question of the leadership within the Douglas County Election Commission and Gov. Heineman who’s the one that appointed this person.”

Nebraska Republicans countered the allegations with their own charges of voter fraud, saying calls were being made to discourage people from voting. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

But in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Phipps said the pre-marked ballot was simply a mistake. He said according to an election inspector, a completed ballot was accidentally handed to a voter after it got stuck in the privacy sleeve. He said inspectors were not aware of any second instance.

Just as the Democrats wrapped up the press conference, the chair of the Nebraska Republican Party Mark Fahleson jumped in and made his own announcement of charges of voter fraud. Fahleson said his party had received about 10 calls this morning from voters who said they’d received calls from a group claiming to be the Nebraska Republican Party. Fahleson said the callers were discouraged from showing up at the polls and told their absentee ballots had already been received. “So it’s clear that the shenanigans of the Obama machine out of Chicago is up to no good in Omaha, Nebraska,” Fahleson said. “And we’re not going to put up with it.”

Fahleson said one voter recorded the phone call and that has been handed over to police to investigate.
The press conference soon deteriorated into a shouting match between Powers and Fahleson over further complaints that Republicans had re-tweeted a vandalized campaign sign for Bob Kerrey.

“Why would you glorify criminal activity?” Powers demanded, while Fahleson continued to address reporters. “Mark, come on. This is our press conference, you’re a guest, answer the question. Don’t run away like a coward.”

“Obviously someone’s losing it,” Fahleson responded.

Meanwhile, the community group Nebraskans for Civic Reform has scheduled yet another press conference for tomorrow morning over emails released by The Reader. Those reportedly indicate Phipps may have had a larger role in crafting legislation that resulted in the earlier poll closures.

Polls close in Nebraska tonight at 8pm. Aside from this back-and-forth, the polls appear to be running smoothly.

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