Charleston Daily Mail



Vote fraud hurts all West Virginians

Federal prosecutors are doing the job the state should have done


December 30, 2005


"HOUND Dog" went into the federal courthouse in Charleston earlier this month to cop his plea as part of a federal investigation into election law violations.


A defendant named "Groundhog" went in Wednesday.


On Thursday, it was Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Greg Stowers who entered a guilty plea.


Stowers is the son of Wylie Stowers, a longtime chairman of the county Democratic Executive Committee, and brother of Lyle Stowers, vice chairman of the state Democratic Executive Committee.


Greg Stowers admitted giving $7,000 in cash to Wandell "Rocky" Adkins during the 2004 Democratic Primary. Adkins' attorney said he would plead guilty to an election fraud charge.


Co-defendants Toney "Zeke" Dingess and Ralph Dale Adkins also entered guilty pleas Thursday.


Colorful nicknames put a cornpone face on a deeply corrupt political culture that involved vote-buying, ticket fixing, controlling access to jobs, suppressing the taxes of some, graveling the roads of others.


It's a pathetic spectacle.


Logan County Clerk Glen Dale "Hound Dog" Adkins admitted that he sold his vote in 1996 for $500. As county clerk, he was the chief elections officer.


How can a county hold clean elections when the man who runs the elections sells his vote?


Clifford Odell "Groundhog" Vance, a Division of Highways worker in neighboring Lincoln County, admitted that he bribed voters with pints of Kessler whiskey, $10 to $15 in cash, or both in 1988 or 1990.


They were not the first to plead guilty rather than stand trial, nor will they be the last, as federal prosecutors try once again to clean up West Virginia politics.


The state won't police itself. The feds must do the job.


In Logan County, federal prosecutors have obtained guilty pleas from millionaire lawyer Mark Oliver Hrutkay; Sheriff John Mendez; Logan Police Chief Alvin "Chipper" Porter; former United Mine Workers official Perry French Harvey Jr.; and Ernest J. Stapleton, a former commander of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, who siphoned $35,000 from the post's raffles to buy votes.


Former Logan Mayor Tom Esposito pleaded guilty to paying off a former Logan County magistrate.


What a nest of vipers. And neighboring Lincoln County has its own set.


In Lincoln, in addition to Groundhog Vance, Assessor Jerry Dale Weaver pleaded guilty and plans to resign from a county office that he held for 25 years.


Voting corrupted by political machines has harmed not only local people, but the state as well.


In the past, some offenders have served time, been re-elected, and re-offended. Here is hoping the sanctions will be sufficient to deter the behavior longer this time.


Copyright 2005 Charleston Daily Mail



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