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Couple with homes in Mass. and NH facing felonies for voting in both states in 2016 presidential election

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 20. 2018 9:29AM
   

CONCORD — A woman facing felony voter fraud charges said she was on powerful painkillers and recovering from surgery when she and her husband voted in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election.

Grace Fleming, 70, said she and her husband, John S. Fleming Jr., 71, made a simple mistake when they voted in both Hampton and Belchertown, Mass. On Wednesday, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced that a Rockingham County grand jury indicted the couple on two felony voting fraud charges each.

“Somehow it slipped through the cracks and we messed up,” said Fleming, speaking to a reporter by telephone from the couple’s Belchertown home. “We made a mistake, we’re 70 years old.”

However, a key statement that Fleming told a reporter — that she voted absentee in both Hampton and Belchertown — was contradicted by the Belchertown clerk.

According to the Belchertown clerk’s office, both Flemings voted in person in 2016. They had registered to vote through the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Aug. 18, 2016. Both registered Republican.

Lawmakers have tightened voting laws in New Hampshire each of the last two years as some national party leaders allege widespread voter fraud.

President Trump complained that out-of-state voters were “bused” into New Hampshire from Massachusetts to sway the 2016 general election, though no credible evidence has surfaced to support the allegation.

According to MacDonald’s office, the Flemings cast absentee ballots in Hampton and voted in Belchertown, Mass., but the statement did not specify whether the Belchertown votes were in person or absentee.

The Flemings were flagged by the Voter Crosscheck Program, a multi-state database that compares voter information from state-to-state to find voters registering to vote in more than one state, MacDonald’s office said.

The Secretary of State investigates individuals identified by the Crosscheck database and forwards findings to the Attorney General.

Fleming said she and her husband have been New Hampshire residents since the early 1980s and have voted here since then. She would not disclose who she and her husband voted for; both are registered independents, according to the Hampton town clerk.

Fleming said her husband went online in Massachusetts to register to vote when she was recovering from surgery and thought they would not be able to vote in New Hampshire. She said a friend had long ago told them they could register in two different places as long as they voted in only one.

She said they sent in ballots probably a week apart. That statement is contradicted by the voting record released by the Belchertown clerk.

Fleming said the two drove to the Attorney General’s office in Concord to speak with an investigator and a lawyer. Dick Tracy, an investigator, twice asked if they had intentionally cast ballots in two places and they denied doing so, she said.

“He said he thought we were honest people and thanked us for coming in,” Fleming said.

Fleming expected to receive a copy of a report, but never did.

MacDonald’s office would not answer questions or provide information beyond what was in the official statement Wednesday morning.

The first Fleming learned she’d been charged with voter fraud was when contacted by a Union Leader reporter.

She said the couple had recently visited national parks out west and returned to Belchertown. By Wednesday afternoon they were planning to travel to Hampton to check mail, where she expected to find the indictment.

“We tried to tell him it was an honest mistake, but I guess they didn’t believe us,” she said.

Before retiring, she worked in procurement for Hewlett-Packard for years and her husband worked in information technology at an insurance company.

Fleming said they will now be hiring a criminal defense attorney.

“We’re just blown away and so totally stressed out about this,” she said. Her husband has heart problems and she has issues related to arthritis.

The two are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. in Rockingham County Superior Court.

The Flemings are each facing two charges: knowingly checking in at the checklist and casting a ballot in New Hampshire while doing so in another state, and knowingly voting more than once for any office or measure. Each charge carries a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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