Election administrator: Reports of electioneering at Carmel early voting site ‘isolated incidents’ 


Hamilton County Elections Administrator Beth Sheller said she believes two reports of electioneering at a Carmel early voting site on Nov. 3 are “isolated incidents” and that she hasn’t had to address these types of allegations in previous elections. 

“This is very new to us here,” Sheller said. 

Sheller removed Democratic poll worker James Zheng from his position Nov. 3 after speaking with the inspector assigned to the early voting site at Mercy Road Church after the polls closed. Zhang, whom Sheller said has been a poll worker “for years,” was asked not to return for the final days of early voting or Election Day. 

According to Sheller, the inspector reported that Zheng told two voters that campaign workers stationed outside the building who support GOP-backed Carmel school board candidates are “racist.” 

The inspector also reported that Zheng selected the straight Democratic Party ticket for a voter who was seeking assistance, Sheller said, and that the voter flagged another poll worker to help clear the selection. 

In both cases, voters were able to cast ballots as they intended, Sheller said. She did not speak to the voters directly or know their identities. 

Zheng issued a statement Nov. 7 through the Hamilton County Democratic Party denying the allegations. Sheller said he also denied the reports when she called him Nov. 3. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story as of press time. 

In his statement, Zheng reported that while working at the voting site Nov. 3, he observed through windows visible from the indoor voting machines people who were wearing red T-shirts containing the names of Republican-endorsed candidates for Carmel school board. The issue was reported to the inspector, who did not take action, Zheng stated. 

State law requires campaign workers stationed outside of polls to remain at least 50 feet away from the polling place entrance. Sheller said that the campaign workers did not violate state law, even though they were visible through the windows. She said Zheng has withdrawn his complaint to the Hamilton County Election Board regarding the campaign workers. 

The election board is expected to discuss the allegations against Zheng, among other matters, during a meeting set for 10 a.m. Nov. 8. 

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating.

“We take criminal allegations very seriously, and I want to assure the public that this complaint will be reviewed with the utmost diligence in conjunction with the Hamilton County Elections Board,” stated Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, a Republican.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party issued a statement Nov. 7 calling the removal of Zheng “last-minute dirty tricks” by the Hamilton County Republican Party.

“The Hamilton County Republican Party is trying to sow last-minute doubt into the integrity of our elections. We believe voters deserve honesty and the truth,” it states. “It appears as though school board activists, supporting GOP-endorsed candidates, were too close to voting machines at a vote center in the county. After a poll worker brought it to the attention of election administrators, he was removed from working the site.”

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Mario Massillamany stated on Nov. 4 that he has been in communication with local election officials to ensure they remind poll workers of state law concerning their roles and responsibilities.

“This should serve as a cautionary reminder that those desperate to hold onto power or gain power will do anything, including breaking the law, to thwart the efforts of parents and taxpayers to replace our school boards with officials who more accurately reflect the values of our community,” Massillamany said.

Regarding the statements issued Nov. 7 from the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Zheng, Massillamany said, “They are not denying the illegal electioneering from their poll worker. Rather, they are trying to deflect his wrongdoing.”