The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 14, 2013

Two charged with voter fraud in Fayette County

UNIONTOWN — Two Democratic western Pennsylvania township officials were charged with voter fraud for allegedly soliciting absentee votes from elderly residents who weren’t eligible to cast such ballots.

An investigative grand jury recommended the charges filed Friday by state police.

“I think every citizen should have faith that the electoral system be played on an even playing field with the rules being obeyed and, when violated, the violators be penalized,” said Fayette County District Attorney Jack Heneks, who is a Democrat in a county where nearly 70 percent of registered voters also belong to the party.

William Geary, 62, and Thomas Keefer, 58, both Bullskin Township supervisors, will be scheduled for a preliminary hearing after they receive mailed court summonses advising them of the charges.

The grand jury was convened after Democratic nominee David Butler complained after losing to Keefer in the November 2011 general election by nine votes. Keefer, an incumbent, had lost the May 2011 Democratic primary to Butler, but got 741 votes compared with 732 for Butler after waging a write-in campaign that November.

The grand jury found that Keefer and Geary, another incumbent, visited 13 elderly voters’ homes to help them complete the ballots despite knowing the voters were physically able to vote in-person on Election Day. Both men also failed to fill out declarations of physical disability with the ballots, which certify that the voters wouldn’t be able to vote in-person, the grand jury found.

The grand jury found Keefer obtained six votes that way, while Geary obtained seven more votes for Keefer the same way.

Keefer’s defense attorney, Jack Purcell, said his client is innocent. Geary couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, and he doesn’t have an attorney listed in court papers.

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