Marion County Board of Elections member charged with trying to influence vote

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A Marion County Board of Elections member is accused of breaking Ohio election law.

Seventy-five-year-old Jackie Smith is facing a misdemeanor count of illegally influencing the vote during last month's election.

Some have questions not just about Smith's alleged actions, but the response from election officials.

As Director of the Marion County Board of Elections, John Meyer has one chief responsibility.

"We're here to provide everybody the equal opportunity to vote. Everybody's vote counts as much as the next guy," he said.

It's a responsibility he says he takes very seriously.

"Trust me, you don't do this job for the money."

That's why he says he was so disturbed by a call he got Election Day.

"(They) said there was a board member holding up a candidate sign in the parking lot. Well in the parking lot might not be bad, the board member part was."

The caller provided a photo.

"Saw the picture and immediately headed for the polling place. And when I arrived, the incident quote unquote was still underway," said Meyer.

He says Board of Elections member Jackie Smith was standing, holding up a sign for a candidate for City Council President.

"I witnessed it," he said. "Now you've got someone involved in the administration of the election, actually trying to change the outcome. And that's to me the biggest no-no."

Marion City Councilmember Josh Daniels shares Meyer's concern.

"If the people who count the votes are actively campaigning for one candidate or another, how is the public supposed to trust that those votes were counted correctly?" Daniels said.

But he has another concern- what was done about it? Three weeks after Election Day, no formal action had been taken against Smith.

"I would think that in the perfect world, that it would have been handled by the first elections official that got information about it. If they knew it was illegal, or if they suspected it being illegal, they should have researched it enough to know that it is a first degree misdemeanor, and that the Sheriff would have been the person to contact. That is their job. It just didn't happen that way."

Marion County Board of Elections Chair Phyllis Eshman-Thomas told 10TV she was told Jackie Smith planned to resign December 1st, in her mind, resolving the matter.

When that didn't happen, she says they notified the Secretary of State's Office.

"At the time, none us realized it could be a criminal matter," said Meyer. "It was an elections and procedural matter."

Josh Daniels believed otherwise and reported it to the sheriff's office.

They investigated and charged Smith with illegally influencing voters, a misdemeanor.

He says it's not about partisanship- but about protecting the vote, and the public's confidence in it.

"When someone is willing to show up to vote, they expect their vote to be counted properly. If no one believes in that anymore, you don't have democracy."

Jackie Smith referred all questions to her attorney, who did not return 10tv's call.

The chair of the Marion County Republican Party, which appointed Smith to her post, said Smith "made an error in judgment."

But Gary Risch said the party didn't think it was egregious enough to force her to resign.

The Ohio Secretary of State's Office has the authority to remove Smith, and tells 10tv they are monitoring the legal case against her.