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Liberal activist sentenced to jail for voter registration fraud in swing state

Rebecca Hammond, a liberal activist in Ohio, was sentenced to 180 days in jail after pleading guilty to 13 counts of voter fraud. (Image source: WKBN-TV)

A liberal activist in Ohio was sentenced to 180 days in jail last week after pleading guilty to 13 counts of voter fraud.

Rebecca Hammond, 34, of East Liverpool, Ohio, worked as a paid canvasser in 2015 for the liberal activist group Ohio Organizing Collaborative. Hammond was initially charged with 35 counts of falsely registering people to vote and forging signatures on voter registration forms in Columbiana County, Ohio, in September and October 2015. She was indicted on those charges in May 2016, WCPO-TV reported.

Hammond's indictment came after Columbiana County Board of Elections Director Adam Booth discovered discrepancies while trying to verify some of the information on voter registration applications. At least five of the voter registration applications in question included the names of dead people, according to the Salem News.

“The handwriting wasn’t the same. The signature wasn’t the same," Booth told WKBN-TV. "Maybe the birth date was off by a year or so. Things were flagging off as irregular than what we had in our system. The names matched up to the birthdays, which matched up, for the most part, to the driver’s license and then she was just forging their signatures. It’s not something anybody off the street couldn’t just try to do."

After the discovery, Booth alerted the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office, which launched an investigation into the matter. The case was later turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is part of the Ohio attorney general's office.

"The investigation found that [Hammonds] falsely registered a number of Columbiana County residents, including some who were deceased, which is inexcusable," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, according to WCPO-TV.  "Allegations of voter fraud referred to my office will always be thoroughly investigated."

Each of the 35 counts carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison. However, Hammond pleaded guilty in January to just 13 counts as part of plea deal. Hammond's public defender, Jennifer Gorby, said the activist's actions were due to a “a lack of judgment on her part.”

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative did not compensate its canvassers based on the number of voters they registered, but Hammond told the Salem News that she "felt I needed to keep the numbers up" to help ensure the organization didn't lose its funding.

Ohio Associate Assistant Attorney General Brian Deckert added that Hammond's actions "may have come down to human laziness."

Hammonds was asked if leaders at the Ohio Organizing Collaborative were aware of what she was doing. She replied, “Not that I’m aware of."

Columbiana County Judge C. Ashley Pike laid into Hammond at her March 6 sentencing, saying that she "made a mockery" of the democratic system.

“I just can’t overlook this. You attempted to violate the integrity of our election process in the county,” Pike said.

“You made a mockery of our system. ... If 180 days [in the county jail] doesn’t teach you a lesson, nothing will," Pike added.

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