Third Bullskin supervisor charged with election violations
By Liz Zemba
Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A third Bullskin supervisor has been charged with election code violations.
State police on Friday charged Walter “Deb” Wiltrout, 67, with two misdemeanor counts each of unlawful assistance in voting and violation of provisions relating to absentee voting.
A countywide investigating grand jury recommended the charges be filed. In a presentment handed down on Tuesday, the jury found that Wiltrout failed to fill out declarations of assistance after helping two voters fill out and mail absentee ballots.
Jurors said there is no evidence Wiltrout “influenced” the two voters on their selections, but they nonetheless recommended the district attorney pursue charges.
“The grand jury recognizes that this could be considered a de minimis violation,” jurors said in the presentment. “Nevertheless the grand jury believes that Mr. Wiltrout as an elected supervisor and past candidate for office was aware or should have been aware that such assistance was done in violation of the Election Code.”
The other two Bullskin supervisors, Thomas Scott Keefer and William H. Geary, had previously been charged with election code violations and conspiracy at the recommendation of the same grand jury.
The grand jury said Keefer and Geary helped voters obtain and cast absentee ballots when the voters, most of whom were elderly, were able to go to the polls.
In addition, grand jurors found that Keefer, 58, and Geary, 62, failed to submit required declarations of physical disability with the ballots.
In the presentments on Keefer and Geary, the grand jury found that the two incumbent supervisors “were political allies” in support of Keefer's write-in campaign during the Nov. 8, 2011, election. Keefer mounted the write-in campaign after losing the Democratic nomination to David Butler.
Keefer won re-election in November, defeating Butler by a vote count of 741-732, according to the presentment.
Jurors found that Geary and Keefer visited voters' homes, asked them to obtain applications for absentee ballots and then helped them complete the applications despite knowing that the voters would be able to vote in person on Election Day.
“The grand jury finds that many of the voters solicited by Mr. Geary and Mr. Keefer were elderly or otherwise vulnerable members of the community due to lack of knowledge or ability to completely understand the voting process,” jurors wrote in the presentment.
Once they assisted the voters, the men failed to fill out required declarations of physical disability with the ballots, according to the presentment.
In the presentment regarding Wiltrout, the jury noted that it does not believe that he conspired with Geary and Keefer regarding the allegations against them. But it found that Wiltrout failed to fill out declarations of assistance after helping two voters fill out and mail absentee ballots.
The three men face preliminary hearings at 9 a.m. Nov. 21 before Connellsville District Judge Ronald Haggerty Jr.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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