A poll worker removed from a Carmel early voting site last week for attempting to influence voters is denying the allegations made against him.
In a statement provided to the Hamilton County Election Board, James Zheng, who was working as a Democratic poll worker Nov. 3 at the early voting site at Mercy Road Church in Carmel, claimed the inspector assigned to the polls that day indicated one of the poll workers had “told voters not to vote for the Republican-endorsed Carmel school board candidates because they don’t care about diversity” and that the worker had told voters to vote straight-ticket Democrat.
Shortly after arriving home that evening, Zheng stated that he received a call from Hamilton County Elections Administrator Beth Sheller, who told Zheng the inspector alleged he had made the comments and was attempting to influence voters.
“I categorically deny these allegations and would point out that at no time during the early voting on (Nov. 3) did the inspector call me aside and confront me with these false allegations,” Zheng stated.
In his statement, Zheng said earlier in the day he observed through windows visible from the indoor voting machines people who were wearing red T-shirts containing the names of Republican-endorsed candidates for Carmel school board. The issue was reported to the inspector, who did not take action, Zheng stated. State law requires people stationed at polls in support of certain candidates to remain at least 50 feet away from the polling place entrance.
Zheng was told he would not be permitted to work at the polls for the remainder of the election. Election Day is Nov. 8.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party issued a statement Nov. 7 calling the removal of the poll worker “last-minute dirty tricks” by the Hamilton County Republican Party.
“The Hamilton County Republican Party is trying to sow last-minute doubt into the integrity of our elections. We believe voters deserve honesty and the truth,” it states. “It appears as though school board activists, supporting GOP-endorsed candidates, were too close to voting machines at a vote center in the county. After a poll worker brought it to the attention of election administrators, he was removed from working the site.”
The Hamilton County Democratic Party supports the filing of a complaint to the Hamilton County Election Board. The three-member board is set to meet at 10 a.m. Nov. 8 to “be available for the General Election and any issues that may come forward on that day.” The board chair did not immediately respond to more information about what will be discussed at the meeting.
Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Mario Massillamany stated on Nov. 4 that he has been in communication with local election officials to ensure they remind poll workers of state law concerning their roles and responsibilities.
“This should serve as a cautionary reminder that those desperate to hold onto power or gain power will do anything,including breaking the law, to thwart the efforts of parents and taxpayers to replace our school boards with officials who more accurately reflect the values of our community,” Massillamany said.
Regarding the statements issued Nov. 7 from the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Zheng, Massillamany said, “They are not denying the illegal electioneering from their poll worker. Rather, they are trying to deflect his wrongdoing.”
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Dayna Colbert declined to comment Nov. 7 and referred Current to the party’s statement regarding the incident.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the allegations of voter interference.
“We take criminal allegations very seriously, and I want to assure the public that this complaint will be reviewed with the utmost diligence in conjunction with the Hamilton County Elections Board,” stated Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, a Republican.