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State Rep. Candidate defends clerk under investigation for potential election crimes

Ross Deal, Democrat Candidate for the District 7 seat of the Indiana House of Representatives

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Democrat Candidate for the District 7 seat of the Indiana House of Representatives, Ross Deal, is defending the St. Joseph County Clerk the day after video surfaced of her going into the secured absentee ballot area alone, then disposing of potential ballots the day before the 2022 primary election. Glenn and her office are also currently under investigation by the Indiana State Police for potential election crimes related to the handling of absentee ballots and their storage.

Deal proclaimed his defense of Democrat County Clerk Rita Glenn in a Twitter post from another State Representative asking Deal to call for an investigation into the potential crimes.

“A fabricated story by your friends with video taken out of context does not equal “proof.” Deal wrote. “Rita Glenn is a widely regarded public servant by both Republicans and Democrats alike for her integrity. I stand with her and against extremists trying to score cheap political points.” Subscribers can view the post below.

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The video Deal is referring to was published in a REAL News Michiana story on Thursday, showing Glenn entering the absentee ballot area alone, after hours, with a grocery bag, the night before the election. Shortly after, she exits the room and empties several documents from the bag into a blue trash bin, shoving the documents down the side of the container in what appears to be an attempt to conceal the documents. RNM emailed Glenn several questions about the video and the documents. She never responded.

RNM asked Deal how the video was taken out of context and what proof he had that the story was “fabricated.” RNM also asked why Deal is supporting Glenn during the investigation instead of waiting until the Indiana State Police are finished looking into her. As of publication, RNM has not received a response.

STATE POLICE INVESTIGATION

The discovery of this video comes only months after the Indiana State Police opened an investigation into Glenn for potential voting law crimes.  Glenn and her office are currently under investigation by the Indiana State Police following an RNM story about the Democrat having and disseminating multiple keys to the secured absentee ballot area, without the knowledge of the St. Joseph County Republican Party. The county has since hired an attorney to represent Glenn during the investigation.

In early May, Republican officials discovered the existence of multiple keys to access what is supposed to be a secure location to store absentee ballots before they’re counted. The room in the County-City Building, in Downtown South Bend, is secured with two different locks, one for the Republicans the other for the Democrats. In theory, a Republican and Democrat keyholder must be present to gain access to the ballots. While Republican leadership was under the impression that only one key existed for each lock, it turns out there could be up to 7 keys total, with multiple Republican keys being held by Democrats.

DISCOVERY OF KEYS

According to sources who wished not to be named, the revelations came through simple confusion about when designated keyholders were supposed to be at the County-City Building to open the room. The Republican key holder was not immediately available to open the room in early May, so Democrat St. Joseph County Circuit Court Clerk, Rita Glenn, grabbed what she called a “Master Key” and had what she claimed to be a “Republican” in her office open the door for her. That “Republican” is Helen Jojo. A quick search of her voting records show she has never voted in a Republican primary and is not considered to be a Republican by Indiana statute. In fact, the only primary she has voted in was in 2008 as a Democrat, according to voting records.

The St. Joseph County GOP Chair at the time, Zach Potts (who passed away in August), brought up concerns about this “master key” at an Election Board meeting in May. That’s when it was discovered even more keys existed.

WHO HAS THE KEYS

At the meeting, Rita Glenn claimed three people, aside from her, have Republican keys.

  • Ben Horvath: Republican Election Board Chair — Voted in only Republican Primaries. Horvath is selected as the official key holder.
  • Penny Stratton: Election Clerk and Employee of the St. Joseph County Circuit Court — Voted in only Democrat Primaries.
  • Brian Davidson: St. Joseph County Buildings Engineer — Voted in Republican Primary in 2020, Democrat Primaries in 2019 and 2018.

Glenn also disclosed that there are three Democrat keys. Those keyholders are listed below.

  • Brian Davidson: St. Joseph County Buildings Engineer — Voted in Republican Primary in 2020, Democrat Primaries in 2019 and 2018.
  • Penny Stratton: Election Clerk and Employee of the St. Joseph County Circuit Court — Voted in only Democrat Primaries.
  • Rita Glenn: Democrat St. Joseph County Circuit Court Clerk

IS IT ILLEGAL?

The intent of the law mandating the two lock system is to maintain election integrity. The law mandates there be Democrat lock with a key given to a Democrat keyholder and a separate lock with a key given to a Republican keyholder. While the intent of the law appears to stipulate that there only be one key per lock, Indiana Statute does not specifically state additional keys can or cannot exist.

You can read the entire statute below:

IC 3-11-10-10 Absentee ballots to be kept under two locks in cabinets, boxes, or room; security of keys

     Sec. 10. During the period that absentee ballots are being received, each county election board shall keep the ballots in cabinets, boxes, or a room upon which there are two (2) locks, one (1) for each of the appointed members of the board. Each day the absentee ballots shall be placed in the cabinets, boxes, or room under the direction of the appointed members of the board. If an appointed member cannot be present each day, then that member shall designate someone from the member’s political party to be present with the key to the lock at the time the ballots are secured and at the time the lock is opened the next day. The key of each appointed member of the board shall be kept secure in the manner determined by that appointed member.

REAL News Michiana reached out to Democrat County Clerk Rita Glenn, St. Joseph County GOP Chair Zach Potts and St. Joseph County Democrat Party Chair Diana Hess for statements in May. RNM did not receive statements from any of the officials.

CURRENT CLERK CANDIDATE ALSO TIED TO SCANDAL

Glenn is currently finishing the last year of her term as the St. Joseph County Clerk. However, her subordinate, Lana Cleary, is currently running as a Democrat for the position. Cleary has worked in the office for 20 years and has worked closely with Glenn in running St. Joseph County’s elections, including the absentee voting process. Sources tell RNM Cleary was well aware of the additional keys to the absentee voting area.

Cleary was endorsed by Glenn in the 2022 primary in which she defeated fellow Democrat Ann Dylewski, who is also a current employee of the Clerk’s Office.

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