Student: My vote was stolen

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Francis Marion High School student says that a woman present at the polls during the May 3 House District 72 special election robbed her of her right to vote.

Cynthia Davis, an 18-year old senior at Francis Marion, has sworn–both in a complaint filed with the Marion Police Department and a notarized affidavit given to prominent anti-voting fraud group the Democracy Defense League–that an African-American woman first prevented her from voting for Ralph A. Howard, and then submitted a vote for Albert Turner in Davis’s name and without her consent.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Davis said in a recent interview. “I felt like it was a violation of my privacy and my freedom of speech. I felt like she violated my rights.”

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According to a copy of her affidavit obtained by the Times, Davis was summoned along with the rest of Francis Marion’s registered 18-year-olds to the school cafeteria the day of the election. Francis Marion principal Bobbie Coley and Turner were there to provide the students with transportation to the polls.

“When I arrived at the cafeteria,” Davis’s statement reads, “I saw Albert Turner and Ms. Coley separating students by voting precinct. Albert Turner said he was going to take everybody who was registered to vote to the polls.”

Davis and other students were then taken to their polling place, Marion’s old National Guard Armory. According to her statement, that’s when Davis’s troubles began.

“I went inside the Armory to vote,” the affidavit reads, “and a black female…approached me and helped me sign in and get my ballot. [She] was wearing an Albert Turner tee shirt. After I got my ballot, [she] followed me to a voting table. [She] stood over me while I marked my ballot for Ralph Howard.”

According to Davis, her choice provoked a surprising reaction in the woman.

“After marking my ballot,” the statement reads, “[she] told me I could not vote for Ralph Howard. I asked [her] why I could not vote for Ralph Howard and she told me I had to vote for Albert Turner because he is the person who drove me to the polls. At this time, [she] took my ballot and marked for Albert Turner.”

With the ballot now cast for both candidates, the woman took the ballot to the poll official and requested a new one on Davis’s behalf.

“[She] told him I had wanted to vote for Albert Turner but didn’t know how to vote,” the statement reads. “[She] then obtained a fresh ballot and returned to my table. [She] did not give me the new ballot, instead she marked the ballot for Albert Turner. Then she put the ballot she had marked and put it into the voting machine.”

The experience was so unsettling, Davis said, she could barely react to what wash happening.

“I asked her why I had to vote for Albert Turner. That was the only thing I said to her,” she told the Times. “I was in a state of shock.”

The affidavit was signed by both Davis and her mother, Rose M. Davis, and notarized by notary public Adelaide Hearns.

The account of events expressed in Davis’s affidavit and in her statement to the Marion P.D. are essentially identical. The sole change is that in her affidavit, Davis states who she believes the woman involved to be. Attempts to verify the woman’s identity against the Perry County Judge of Probate’s roster of poll officials for the Armory polling place were unsuccessful, however.

Davis’s allegations show several breaches of voting law on the part of the woman, including violating Davis’s right to a secret ballot, violating her right to vote, and introducing campaign materials (in the form of her t-shirt) inside the 30-foot radius of the polling place.

It should be noted that, because the students are no longer minors, Turner shoulders no legal responsibility for either transporting the students to the polling place or the actions of any of his supporters.

Davis says that she’s glad to make her story public knowledge and hopes it helps prevent incidents like this one from occurring in the future.

“I think people need to read about it,” she said, “and see what’s going on.”