Clay Co. precinct worker testifies she stole votes

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 20, 2010 

FRANKFORT — A former Clay County precinct worker testified Friday that top election officers in the county taught her how to change people's choices on voting machines to steal votes in the May 2006 primary.

Wanda White testified that Clerk Freddy Thompson — the county's chief election officer — helped show her how to manipulate voting machines along with Charles Wayne Jones, the Democratic election commissioner.

The scheme involved duping people to walk away from the voting computer before they had finished their selections, then changing their choices, said White, the Democratic judge in a precinct in Manchester.

White said she stole more than 100 votes that election.

"It was easy done," she said.

White said she also went into the booth with people who had sold their vote to make sure they cast ballots for the candidates who had paid.

White testified Friday in the continuing trial of eight Clay County residents who allegedly took part in a scheme to rig elections over several years.

Those charged are former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; former county school Superintendent Douglas Adams; Thompson, who is still clerk; Jones; William Stivers, a former election officer; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; and William "Bart" Morris and his wife, Debra.

The eight have strongly denied the charges and say witnesses against them have lied to help themselves. Most witnesses so far have been convicted felons who would like to get their sentences cut.

White, who is in her early 40s, said she agreed to help the FBI in return for not being charged. That deal requires her to testify truthfully, she said.

Defense attorneys haven't yet cross-examined White.

White said Maricle, then the circuit judge for Clay, Jackson and Leslie counties, asked her to switch her registration from Republican to Democrat and serve as an officer in a Manchester precinct in the 2006 primary.

Maricle's son-in-law, Phillip Mobley, planned to run for property valuation administrator that year. Her understanding was that Maricle wanted her to work inside the polling place to help rig the election for Mobley, White said.

The vote-buyers took advantage of some confusion caused by new voting machines the county had that year, White said.

The machines had a "Vote" button that people could push to review their choices, then a second button they had to push to record the choices and finish voting.

At Maricle's direction, she went to Stivers, who taught her about distracting voters so they would leave the machine after pushing the review button, but before they'd recorded their choices, White said.

Thompson and Jones used a voting machine to show her and Charles "Dobber" Weaver how to change votes, White said.

White said they did that at the clerk's office after legitimate training for all election workers. She and Weaver stayed late to learn how to manipulate the machines, White said.

Weaver, then the Manchester fire chief, was the Republican judge in the precinct where White was the Democratic judge in May 2006.

White said that even though she and Weaver were of opposite parties, they worked together on Election Day.

She would strike up conversations with people she knew, White said, ushering them away from the voting machine while Weaver slipped in to change votes, or changing votes herself when Weaver got someone to step away too early.

White said the two other officers at the precinct — Manchester lawyer Carl Anthony Short and Lucy Marcum, the sister of then-Jailer Charles Marcum — were aware of the fraud.

The alleged scheme also involved buying votes, White said.

Bowling identified people who would sell their votes that year, while the Morrises and others took part in paying people, White said.

Mobley won the election. At a celebration at his house that night, Maricle told her, "You could've done no better," White said.

Several witnesses have testified that it was customary in Clay County for slates of candidates to join together and pool their money in a unified vote-buying effort.

White said the slate Mobley was on in 2006 — the one she was to work for — included judge-executive candidate Carl "Crawdad" Sizemore; Tommy Harmon, who was running for magistrate; Kevin Johnson, who was running for sheriff; and Circuit Clerk James Phillips, who was seeking re-election.

White did not testify that she saw any of those candidates put in cash for vote-buying.

She did say, however, that she was aware of a number of people putting up cash to buy votes in earlier elections, including Jennings B. White, who was clerk two terms; Judge-Executive James Garrison; and Barbara White Colter, who served several terms as state representative.

Colter lost in 2002. When she tried a comeback in 2004, she borrowed $20,000 from Kennon and Wanda White to buy votes, Wanda White said.

Colter repaid the money before the election, which she lost, White said.

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