Daily Times (Primos, PA)

Republican from Chesco guilty in rare election fraud

- By Michael P. Rellahan mrellahan@dailylocal.com To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan cal 610-696-1544.

WEST CHESTER » A Willistown man’s clumsy attempt at trying to cast a false ballot in the 2020 presidenti­al election has resulted in his disqualifi­cation from voting in future elections, according to Chester County prosecutor­s. The case against the 72-year-old registered Republican is one of the only verified instances in Chester County, or Pennsylvan­ia, of alleged voter fraud.

On Sept. 10, Ralph Holloway Thurman entered a guilty plea to one count of repeat voting in elections, a third-degree felony, for allegedly attempting to vote as another person — his own son — before being discovered by an alert poll worker who recognized him as having voted a short time earlier that day.

Thurman, though his attorneys, had initially said that he had no intention of casting an illegal ballot, but had been given permission by his son to cast a ballot in the contentiou­s election on his son’s behalf. He also suggested that poll workers had somehow tricked him into voting twice.

The plea, which had been negotiated between the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Hollander, and Thurman’s attorney, Jeffrey Oster of the Philadelph­ia firm of Vaughan Baio & Partners, calls for Thurman to be under court supervised probation for three years. During that time, he cannot own or possess a firearm, and is barred from voting in elections for four years.

The voting prohibitio­n is a civil penalty enforced by the state as a result of his conviction, similar to the suspension of a driver’s license for a drunk driving case.

Said Hollander in a statement Friday: “We are pleased with the outcome in this case. Free, fair, and open elections are the fundamenta­l tool to a successful democracy. When someone takes it upon himself to unlawfully challenge this for their agenda, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office will hold them accountabl­e.”

Added District Attorney Deb Ryan, “The defendant’s criminal acts were a clear and flagrant violation of the law. As a result of his attempt to flout and undermine the system, he will be barred from voting, as provided by statute, for the next four years. This is the only known incident of voter fraud reported in Chester County after the November 2020 elections. We were able to address it immediatel­y, without it having any impact on the election.”

The 2020 Pennsylvan­ia election, which President Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, continues to be mired in controvers­y. Earlier this month a GOPled panel in the state Senate began conducting a muchreport­ed on review of the way in which the election was conducted, and has said it would issue subpoenas for private voter informatio­n to attempt to determine whether illegal ballots were cast. County officials said last week they had not received any subpoenas for that informatio­n, which includes partial Social Security numbers.

Former President Donald Trump continues to assert, without credible evidence, that he was victorious in his quest to claim re-election, and that states such as Pennsylvan­ia delivered fraudulent returns that doomed his candidacy. But despite suggestion­s that there was voter fraud that propelled Biden to victory in the state, Thurman’s case is among the only ones in the state to have been confirmed and prosecuted.

It was against the backdrop of the contested election that Willistown Officer William Viebahn in November filed the unusual criminal complaint against Thurman, who lives not far from the Ashbridge Preserve Park in the township.

According to the complaint, Viebahn was called at about 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 3, Election Day, and told that there had been a subject, identified as Thurman, making false statements and attempting to vote twice.

Viebahn said that he was told that Thurman came to the South-1 precinct polling place at the Sugartown Elementary School earlier that day and asked whether he had to produce an identifica­tion card to vote. Thurman was told that he did not, and only had to sign the voter registrati­on log so long as he was not a first time voter. Thurman then allegedly asked whether he could vote for his son, Kyle Thurman, but was told by poll worker Eric Frank that doing so would be illegal.

Thurman signed the register, was given a ballot, voted, and left the polling place, according to the complaint.

However, about 45 minutes later, Thurman reportedly returned to the precinct, this time wearing sunglasses, and identified himself as his son. He gain signed the voter log, was given a ballot, and proceeded to vote, Viebahn wrote.

But Frank recognized Thurman as having been the man who had voted earlier, and alerted the Judge of Elections, his father, David Frank. When David Frank attempted to speak with him, Thurman “hurriedly fled the building,” the complaint states.

Both Franks provided written statement to what they said had occurred, and the younger Frank provided a photograph of the voter lines at the polling place. Viebahn said he checked with Assistant District Attorney Daniel Hollander, who was on duty that day for reports of voting irregulari­ties, and that he approved the charges.

Both Thurman’s are registered voters in the township, although their voting record is somewhat spotty, with the elder man voting about a quarter of the time and his son only half that. Ralph Thurman is a registered Republican, while Kyle Thurman is a registered Democrat.

According to the county’s unofficial returns, Biden led Trump in the precinct where the incident occurred, 315 votes to 275 votes. The former vice president captured the traditiona­l Republican stronghold, 4,571 votes to 3,386 votes.

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