I've worked elections in St. Clair County. As a graduate student I worked closely with both Gaffner for Congress campaigns in 1988 (special election and general election). We were up on Jerry Costello both times until the East St. Louis vote came in. It was taken for granted that the city vote was not clean.
Some things never change -- except now they are getting caught and prosecuted.
Leroy Scott Jr., 46; Lillie Nichols, 51; Terrance R. Stitch, 43; and his wife, Sandra Stith, 54; pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count each of vote-buying before U.S. District Judge David Herndon on Tuesday morning.
The East St. Louis Democratic Committee held organizational meetings on Oct. 13, 20 and 27, headed by Committee Chairman Charlie Powell and discussed strategy for maximizing the Democratic vote for president, Illinois Supreme Court justice and the St. Clair County Board chairman in the Nov. 2 election, according to the charges.
"During these organizational meeting, the need to pay voters for voting the 'Democratic ticket' during the Nov. 2 general election, and the amount which said voters should be paid, was discussed by Charles Powell and other precinct committeemen," the charges stated.
Powell denied Tuesday he ordered anyone to buy votes, but only to get voters to the polls on Election Day. He also acknowledged there was a chance he could face an indictment.
"Everything is possible," Powell said. "I don't have any judgment on it whatsoever."
Robert Sprague, who heads the St. Clair County Central Democratic Committee, could not be reached for comment.
Two days before the election, the charges allege Scott, Precinct 38 committeeman, received $1,200; Nichols, Precinct 29 committeeman, received $1,500; and Terrance Stith, Precinct 23 committeeman, received $2,000 from the St. Clair County Democratic Committee.
Sandra Stith worked the polls for her friend, Edna Mayes, Precinct 11th committeeman, and received $500, the charges stated.
The Stiths, Nichols and Scott admitted Tuesday that they paid voters between $5 and $10 for favorably casts ballots during the Nov. 2 election.
Here's hoping that this will encourage an honest vote and an honest count in one of the most dishonest election venues in the country.
UPDATE: Looks like there is even more.
The head of the East St. Louis Central Democratic Committee and others bought votes in a 2004 election that included hotly contested races for Illinois Supreme Court justice and St. Clair County Board chairman, according to federal indictments made public Wednesday.
Besides committee Chairman Charles Powell, the accused include Kelvin Ellis, director of regulatory affairs for the city, who was named in an earlier indictment that among other things accused him of trying to arrange the murder of a witness against him in a vote fraud investigation.
U.S. Attorney Ron Tenpas said some of the money used to sway the vote came from the St. Clair County Democratic Party, but he stressed that the indictments didn't indicate that county Democrats were aware the money was used for vote buying.
Wrong thing to say, Ron. The East St. Louis Democrat Party apparatus is almost exclusively black, while the St. Clair County Democrat party is mostly white. You are certainly going to have people start shouting "racism" over the failure to indict folks from the county Democrats, since you've implicitly cleared the white folks while indicting the black folks.
The indicted Democrats are:
The five charged in the indictment with conspiracy to commit election fraud are committeemen [Charles] Powell, 61; Jesse Lewis, 56; Sheila Thomas, 31; Kelvin Ellis, 55; and precinct worker Yvette Johnson, 46. Lewis, Thomas, Ellis and Johnson also are charged with election fraud.
Please note -- Powell is the chairman of the East St. Louis Democrats. The truly sad thing is that, for all their work suborning vote fraud, only one of the favored candidate won.
Only one of the "favored candidates" identified in the indictment was elected. That was County Board Chairman Mark Kern, who trailed Republican rival Steve Reeb by about 4,000 votes in the rest of the county but won by about the same number when ballots in East St. Louis were counted. The city has a separate election authority from the rest of the county.
Talk about your gang that couldn't shoot straight.
And that "down by 4000/up by 4000" move when the votes were counted looks really familiar to me -- the first Gaffner campaign I worked on went into East St. Louis up by 2500 votes and came out down by the same margin, costing us the election.
In East St. Louis, Ill, A federal juryâ€¦ convicted the chairman of the cityâ€™s Democratic Party and four others of scheming to buy votes with cash, cigarettes and liquor last November. Prosecutors relied largely on secretly recorded audiotapes in which they say the accused could be heard talking about paying $5 per vote to get key Democrats elected. Charles Powell Jr., 61, the cityâ€™s Democratic Party chairman, was found guilty along with the cityâ€™s former director of regulatory affairs and three others. (AP)
East St. Louis vote buying case goes to trial
6/2/2005 12:56 PM
(Editor's note: The following report, submitted by Cal Skinner, is reprinted with permission from the Illinois Leader).
East St. Louis Democratic Committee chairman and former city councilman Charles Powell, Jr., three fellow elected Democratic precinct committeemen, and one Democratic precinct worker are on trial for vote buying in U.S. District Court.
The beneficiaries of the alleged scheme were Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry, Illinois State Supreme Court candidate Gordon Maag and Mark Kern, the Democratic candidate for Chairman of the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners.
The Democrats won two out of three. Maag lost his race for a seat on the state's high court to Republican Lloyd Karmeier. None of the candidates have been implicated in any wrongdoing.
"The race for county board chairman was decided by East St. Louis votes," observed St. Clair County Board Member and Kern opponent Steve Reeb. "It was that close."
It used to be called "walking around money." Now, according to the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee's reports to the State Board of Elections, it's called, "election expenses." $76,150 was reportedly paid to 51 individuals living in East St. Louis days before the 2004 election.
Cooperating voters were paid $5-$10 per vote, according to a report by the Belleville News-Democrat.
"Powell explained that the amount was based on multiplying the expected number of voters in the precinct times an amount of five dollars each," according to a FBI report obtained by the Belleville paper.
According to the indictment, Powell "explained that each Democratic precinct committeeman needed to determine how much he or she would pay voters in their own precinct." Powell allegedly asked them to turn in "election day budgets...requesting funds from the St. Clair County Democratic Committee to be used during the November 2, 2004 general election."
After discussing "these election day budget requests with members of the St. Clair County Democratic committee, the East St. Louis precinct committeemen received funds" from the county central committee "in most instance to the amount requested" on October 31st, according to one plea agreement.
Powell was a member of the East St. Louis city council until he was voted out of office in April. Two weeks before that election, he was indicted for vote fraud.
In late March three other Democratic precinct committeemen--Lillie Nichols, Leroy Scott, Jr., and Terrance Stith--pled guilty to "knowingly and willfully" paying or offering "to pay voters for voting" during a federal elections.
They agreed to render assistance that, if "found to be complete and thoroughly truthful" (underlining in the plea agreement), could lead to the U.S. Attorney's recommendation of a reduction in their sentences. Democratic precinct worker Sandra Stith, Terrance's wife, entered into a similar plea arrangement.
Standing trial with Powell will be fellow Democratic precinct committeemen Jesse Lewis, Sheila Thomas and Kevin Ellis. Ellis precinct worker Yvette Johnson is also charged.
Ellis is also charged with writing a "threatening and misleading" letter to Republican election judges "in order to intimidate" them "so they would not appear at their assigned polling place."