Politics

Scott Removes Madison Democratic Elections Supervisor, School Board Member in Vote Fraud Case

By: Jim Turner | Posted: November 3, 2011 11:45 AM
Jada Woods Williams and Abra Hill Johnson

Jada Woods Williams and Abra Hill Johnson | Credit: electionlawcenter.com

Visitors to Madison County Supervisor of Elections website Thursday are still greeted by the smiling face of Supervisor of Elections Jada Woods Williams.

The Democrat, who earned a degree in political science from Valdosta State University, was first elected to the countywide office in 2006.

However, Williams, along with Madison County School Board member Abra Hill "Tina" Johnson, are no longer in office, by order of Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Tuesday announced the arrest of Williams, Johnson and six others -- including Johnson’s husband -- in connection with alleged voter fraud that allowed Johnson to win a runoff election last year in the county of nearly 20,000 along the Georgia state line.

Johnson, 43, was charged with 10 counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and two counts of absentee ballots and voting violations, according to the FDLE.

Her husband, Ernest Sinclair Johnson Jr., 45, was charged with 11 counts of fraud in connection with casting votes, one count of corruptly influencing voting, and one count of perjury by false written declaration.

Williams, 34, was charged with 17 counts of neglect of duty and corrupt practices for allowing absentee ballots to be illegally distributed.

By the end of the day, Gov. Rick Scott signed executive orders 11-215 and 11-216, suspending both from their elected seats in the county, where Democrats hold a better than 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans.

“It is in the best interests of the residents of Madison County,” the orders state.

 

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While immediate replacements could be appointed by the governor, no replacements have been named to the positions, which pay $76,419 a year as supervisor and $24,662 for school board.

Supporters of Williams and Johnson rallied on the front steps of the county courthouse Tuesday to express their disappointment in the arrests that they claim -- in a video posted by the online Madison Florida Voice -- were racially motivated.

All eight Madison County residents arrested are black.

The rural county, closer to Tallahassee than Jacksonville along the I-10 corridor, is more than 40 percent black.

According to the FDLE, the investigation began shortly after Johnson narrowly defeated Ricky Henderson 675-647 in the Nov. 2, 2010, runoff.

Henderson filed a complaint with Florida's Department of State’s Division of Elections, which contacted the FDLE due to the school board race having an “extraordinarily disproportionate amount of absentee votes.”

Henderson, who is white, took a 53 percent majority among voters casting ballots on the day of the runoff election, while Johnson had 72 percent of the absentee votes, according to the affidavit for arrest.

A poll worker advised investigators there were several instances where voters arrived at the polls only to find out they had already voted. The poll worker claimed one voter had said Johnson's husband had advised him to "just vote for Tina Johnson and that he could vote for the other candidates later," the affidavit stated.

Another voter who arrived at the polls to be advised he had already cast a ballot, recalled to investigators that "Tina Johnson had brought him a ballot and helped him vote because he didn't understand it."

Both the FDLE and FBI announced the arrests.

“The investigation revealed that Johnson and her husband, Ernest Sinclair Johnson Jr., approached voters and obtained their agreement to vote, after which the voters were asked to sign an 'Absentee Ballot Request Form,'” a release from the FDLE stated.

“Without the voters’ knowledge or consent, an alternate address was handwritten on the form, causing the ballots to be mailed to a third party rather than directly to the registered voters."

State law requires ballots to be mailed to a voter’s registered address, with a few exceptions, such as the individual being hospitalized or temporarily unable to occupy the residence.

Agents reported interviewing more than 100 voters and others during the investigation.

“The Johnsons retrieved the ballots from the third-party locations, brought the ballots to the voter, waited for the person to vote, and then returned the ballots to the supervisor of elections,” the FDLE release stated. “In some instances, the voters were only presented with the absentee ballot signature envelope to sign and never received the actual ballot to cast their vote.”

“The Johnsons also secured the assistance of several other individuals to unlawfully obtain absentee ballots directly from the supervisor of elections. Despite written notice of penalties of perjury, these individuals signed and submitted an 'Affidavit to Obtain Absentee Ballot,' claiming to have been authorized by voter to obtain their absentee ballot. These individuals, however, were unknown to the voters.”

According to the FDLE, the investigation continues and additional arrests are possible.

In addition to the Johnsons and Williams, the following individuals, all residents of Madison, were charged in the fraud, according to the FDLE:

Judy Ann Crumitie, 51, four counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities.

Laverne V. Haynes, 57, two counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, two counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities.

Ora Bell Rivers, 41, seven counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, three counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities.

Raven Simona Williams, 20, two counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, two counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities.

Shalonda Michaelle Brinson, 36, nine counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.

 


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