Councilman, police chief arrested in voting fraud

Thursday, November 27th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

McCURTAIN, Okla. (AP) _ The police chief and a councilman in this Haskell County city have been arrested in connection with an investigation into possible election fraud.

The investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has been focused on absentee ballots submitted for McCurtain and Haskell County elections in 2002.

Arrested Tuesday were Police Chief Timothy Ray Lovell, 37, and city Councilman Harvey Howard Way, 62. Each man faces three felony counts of false notarization of absentee ballots.

Authorities said Lovell and Way were released on their own recognizance.

``It's a big mistake. It's a big misunderstanding,'' Way said. Lovell could not be reached for comment.

An analysis of 555 absentee ballot affidavits by The Oklahoman for a Sept. 17, 2002, runoff election showed one man's signature on 74 affidavits.

Lovell was questioned early in the probe, and admitted at the time he and another officer collected 42 absentee ballots from county voters in an effort to get Danita Engleman Williams elected judge and Chris Wilson elected district attorney.

The investigation began last November when an informant notified Haskell County officials that two men were falsely obtaining and notarizing voters' absentee ballots, authorities said at the time.

When the OSBI was asked to investigate, an agent interviewed the two men and they allegedly confessed, officials said. Neither man was identified because they had not been arrested.

One of the men allegedly gathered the ballots and took them to the other man, who was a notary and notarized them. Some of those ballots allegedly belonged to relatives of one of the men.

The notary then signed the voters' affidavits and the other man mailed them to the county election board, officials said.

Felony charges can be filed in cases where a voter's signature is not properly witnessed.

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