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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 11/28/12
ELECTION INVESTIGATION. Seen above is the apartment space Village Trustee Christine Malzahn listed as her primary address when submitting her petition to run for trustee in August. An investigation by the village is under way as to whether the address is Malzahn's residence. Village officials said they were told it was not where she lived, while township clerks say Malzahn was compliant with voting procedures.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
alleged registration fraud
by CHRIS GRAYAn investigation is under way as to whether the recent election of a Village Council trustee is legitimate.
Observer Staff Writer
The village is undertaking an investigation of Christine Malzahn due to her allegedly providing a Romeo address that is not her primary address for the election.
Other local officials, though, say that Malzahn is in compliance with voting laws.
Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin said when Malzahn announced she was running for a trustee position in August, she had people approach her saying that Malzahn doesn't live in the village.
"When you have people coming up and saying that's not what's going on, you have to check it out," she said.
McLaughlin said she contacted Malzahn prior to the withdrawal deadline in August and asked about the concern, but was told the address Malzahn filed with was her primary address.
McLaughlin filed the complaint with the local jurisdiction, which has now been turned over to the Romeo Police Department.
Police Chief Greg Paduch said the primary address provided by Malzahn is an apartment located on the second floor of her N. Main Street business, Romeo Printing.
"We're still trying to gather up some evidence," he said. "When we feel the investigation has been completed to the fullest ability, we will re-contact the prosecutor's office for further review on the information we have."
He said five other people are registered at the location as their primary address as well. He said the apartment is a one-bedroom, 1,400 square foot residence.
"A statement was made by an immediate member of the family who advised us that they had not lived at the address for months prior to the election, but still voted at the precinct," he said.
Tom Rombach, Malzahn's attorney, claims Malzahn has done nothing wrong according to the state's election laws.
"When she filed to run for village trustee, Christine lived and worked in Romeo and was registered to vote in Romeo," he said. "She still lives and works in Romeo."
He said he and Malzahn will be fully cooperative in the ongoing investigation.
"There has been some mis-statements made, and I'm sure police officers will get to the bottom of it because they have to understand the legal tests," he said.
He declined to comment on the other people registered at the address, saying he only represents Malzahn.
Malzahn said she received a special land use permit about four years ago for the apartment, as the entire building was previously designated for commercial use only. She moved into the apartment in early August.
Regarding the investigation, Malzahn said she was "here to do the business of the people."
The actual elections for Romeo are handled by Bruce and Washington townships. Bruce Clerk Susan Brockmann said as far as she was concerned Malzahn was compliant.
"That was put to rest a while ago," she said. "It's a shame, as the community should probably move on and work together to get some things accomplished."
Regarding the other family members registered with the primary address, she said it is common and legal for families to have their children registered at a residence but not live there.
"When children are away at school, they can stay registered to their home address and vote at that address," Brockmann said.
Malzahn's petition was filed with Washington Township. Clerk Kathy Bosheers said Malzahn's address matched what was on file with the Secretary of State, and that she had enough signatures to qualify for the nomination.
"If the address didn't match what is on the state file, we would've discounted the signatures," she said. "We didn't have any problems."
State election law 168.519 states no township, city or village clerk or assistant clerk will register a person that they "have good reason to believe not to be a resident and so qualified" as an elector.
State law 168.520 says if knowledge of a person submitting a fraudulent registration is discovered by a clerk, they must make a full investigation of the facts and may call upon law enforcement agencies for assistance.