Scheme to dupe voters outlined by witness

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 12, 2010 

FRANKFORT — The circuit judge in Clay County discussed how an election officer could steal votes in 2006 when the judge was trying to help his son-in-law win a county office, a witness testified Thursday.

D. Kennon White said then-Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle had backed White's wife, Wanda, to become an election officer in the Manchester precinct.

In the May 2006 primary, Maricle's son-in-law, Phillip Mobley, was running for property valuation administrator.

Maricle and others met with Kennon and Wanda White and said people would be confused about how to use the county's new voting machines, presenting an opportunity to steal votes.

The machines had a "Vote" button that allowed people to review their choices, but they had to push another button to record the selections and finish voting.

That allowed corrupt election officers inside the polling place to dupe voters into thinking they were done after pressing the first button, then change their votes, White testified earlier.

Maricle, Charles Wayne Jones and William Stivers took part in a discussion of how Wanda White could use that method to switch people's votes in May 2006, Kennon White said. Jones was the county's Democratic election commissioner, and Stivers had been an election officer.

"We agreed to do it," Kennon White said. Maricle wanted support for Mobley, while Kennon White wanted help for his father, Daugh White, who would run that fall for an eighth term as Manchester mayor.

Maricle's attorneys have not yet questioned Kennon White.

A man who worked with Wanda White as an election officer in 2006, Charles "Dobber" Weaver, pleaded guilty earlier, admitting he switched votes.

Kennon White's testimony came as the trial continued for Maricle and seven other Clay County residents charged with taking part in a conspiracy to corrupt elections between 2002 and 2007.

Maricle and former school Superintendent Douglas Adams allegedly led the scheme, while others allegedly helped buy votes. The others charged are Jones; Stivers; county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; and William "Bart" Morris and his wife, Debra.

They have denied the charges and argued that prosecution witnesses are willing to lie to get their sentences cut. The prosecution witnesses so far have been convicted felons.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Smith has said some witnesses might not be likable, but that's who has knowledge of the alleged vote fraud because they were involved in it.

Kennon White has pleaded guilty to extorting kickbacks on city contracts and taking part in a scam to pave residents' driveways for political gain. That happened when he was Manchester's city supervisor, a job his father created for him.

In the current trial, several people have testified about widespread vote-buying in the county, going back decades.

Kennon White said that when he considered running for jailer in the 2002 Republican primary, Maricle told him he would have to spend about $120,000 for a "sure thing."

White said he also checked with Adams about the race, and Adams told him if he would put up $60,000 to buy votes, he could be in the group of candidates backed by the politically powerful school board.

In the end, White said, he stuck with another faction and spent more than $50,000 to buy votes, distributing it through a number of people, including Bowling and Bart Morris.

White lost his 2002 race. He said he was told Adams used his influence through the school system, a major employer, to turn election officers away from then-county Clerk Jennings White, and that sunk him as well.

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