EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KTVI) – It may sound like Americans exercising their rights, but one long-time observer who happens to live in the community thinks it's unbelievable and suspicious. Questions begin at a politician’s property where two dozen registered voters are reportedly living. It’s the home of East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton. One of his Hamilton’s jobs is to dispense benefits to needy residents.
A recent interview attempt by Fox 2’s Elliott Davis was interrupted by Hamilton’s planning director, Kelvin Ellis.
“No, no, no brother!” Ellis said, covering a video camera lens. “I said you cannot film me.”
Hamilton owns a boarding house with 24 reported registered voters. Records show 11 of those boarders voted in the last election.
“In terms of electoral output, that’s tremendous,” said Matt Hawkins, head of the East St. Louis Alliance for Change.
Hawkins said it’s already suspicious to have a run down, boarded up 1,100-square foot home with two dozen registered voters. The property owner, Hamilton, is partnering with a convicted voter fraud felon—none other than Kelvin Ellis.
Court records show Ellis went to prison after federal investigators staged a murder scene with a fake hitman. Court records indicate that Ellis was caught on an audio recording saying “our problem’s over,” thinking the person who knew Ellis paid off voters was dead.
“It seems that going to jail is a qualification for moving up in East St. Louis political culture,” Hawkins said.
He said the math doesn't add up when you look at registered voters in East St. Louis.
According to the latest census records, about 95 percent of residents over age 18 are registered to vote. The national average is about 66 percent.
Meaning just about everybody in East St. Louis who's old enough to vote is registered to vote. Hawkins suspects even more than what the East St. Louis Election Board reports. “Right now, still probably 4,000 to 5,000 registered voters more than we believe you could possibly register,” he said.
Hawkins said Hamilton is also a Democratic committeemen and that Hamilton arranges for citizens to vote by mail, sometimes called absentee voting.
“He’s worked with these people. He’s gone to these doors. He’s offered to help them with various things,” Hawkins said. “So right around election time he goes back to them and he says, ‘Hey, give me the ballot and I’ll give you X amount of dollars. You give me the ballot and I’ll fill it out and turn it in for you.’”
Our Fox 2 news crew went right to the people living in Hamilton’s house to ask.
“I vote absentee,” said one man.
When asked if he could remember who he voted for, the man rambled and walked away.
Another man told our news crew, “I vote absentee with him.”
“How does that work? Do you get a ballot and you mail it in?”
“I don’t know how it work; I just do it,” the man said.
“Who mails it in?”
“Him,” he said.
“Who? Who’s that?”
“My landlord,” he said.
A third resident went further, saying he not only mailed in his ballot, but added that Hamilton instructed him on whom to vote for.
Fox 2 News found the name this individual gave us in the voter records, showing he voted in three of the last four elections. Hamilton’s home has among the most voters, but after checking voter records, we found dozens of homes with many registered voters. Forty-two homes in East St. Louis show eight or more voters. East St. Louis Election Board Chairperson Kandrise Mosby said she is doing something about it.
“As far as fraud goes, it happens; it happens throughout not just this city, not just this county, but throughout the country,” she said.
Last March, a couple of people went to vote only to find someone had already voted in their names.
“We’ve turned over information to the state’s attorney,” Mosby said.
Mosby added that she’s also suspended at least 1,500 voter registrations.
“I think our records are the best that they’ve ever been, with the help of the Illinois Voter Registration System,” he said. “It locates felons, because by law we have to cancel those individuals.” Her board has thrown out ballots, like one that was suspicious and turned out to be tied to a vacant building. However, she clarifies her job is not enforcement, but rather about equity.
“That’s our vision here; to make sure we have fair and honest elections in the City of East St. Louis,” Mosby said.
Mosby pointed out that not every registered voter - votes every time. For instance, in the March general primary election, she said turnout in East St. Louis was only 44 percent.