Four Guilty in Vote Buying

Five More East St. Louis Democrat Committee Members were Charged Today

Democrat Voters were paid $5 to $10 to cast a Democratic ballot in the Nov. 2 election, according to four East St. Louis Democrats who pleaded guilty to vote-buying charges in federal court Tuesday.

The charges filed against three precinct committeemen and one precinct worker alleged that the money to buy those votes came from the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee.

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.

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.

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.

(The alledged meetings were held at the East St. Louis VFW Hall. More than $80,000 in money from the committee to “get out the vote” Nov. 2 was distributed Oct. 31 at the East St. Louis Veterans of Foreign Wars post, according to unnamed political sources.)

“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.

New Charges Include Head Democrat Committee Member

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.

Powell, who also is a City Council member seeking re-election April 5, Ellis and the three others face charges of election fraud and conspiracy to commit vote fraud. They’re accused of paying residents to vote in the Nov. 2 election to try to influence the races for Supreme Court, County Board chairman and president.

(Back in January this is what Powell had to say:

“I don’t have any concerns about voter fraud in East St. Louis,” said Charlie Powell, East St. Louis Democratic Committee chairman and 9th precinct committeeman. “The Republicans are raising all this fuss to stymie the black voter in the black communities.”

One of the suspicious cases Topinka highlighted centered on Powell’s own home.

Bob Haida, the county state’s attorney, declined to state whether the vote fraud probe will extend to other boarding homes for the mentally ill — including one at 1714 Bond Ave., East St. Louis, that is owned by Charles Powell, the Democratic committeeman for Precinct 9 and chairman of the city’s Democratic Central Committee.)

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.

Two of the defendants in the new indictment are precinct committeemen: Jesse Lewis, 56, a city housing inspector, and Sheila Thomas, 31. The other defendant is Yvette Johnson, 46, an acquaintance of Ellis’ and a poll worker during the election.

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