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Shaker Heights man indicted for 2020 voter fraud; Ohio has since left system that caught him


Shaker Heights man indicted for 2020 voter fraud; Ohio has since left system that caught him

Apr 27, 2023 | 4:50 am ET
By Morgan Trau
Shaker Heights man indicted for 2020 voter fraud; Ohio has since left system that caught him
Photo of a voting booth by WEWS.

A man from Shaker Heights has been indicted for voter fraud after a national bipartisan system caught him allegedly double voting. Just weeks ago, Ohio left the organization responsible for finding fraud due to “political” differences.

James Dalton Saunders, a 57-year-old attorney, voted in both Ohio and Florida in the 2020 and 2022 general elections, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

OCJ/WEWS found Saunders is registered to vote in both Ohio and Florida. According to the state records and federal elections filings, he is a longtime Republican. He has donated more than $3,000 over the past decade to GOP candidates and PACs, including Donald Trump.

Sec. of State Frank LaRose confirmed he was flagged by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a leading national source for making sure citizens aren’t voting in multiple states.

“This is literally the perfect example of the sole purpose of ERIC, which is to find potential double registrations and potential double voters,” Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director for the ACLU of Ohio, said.

ERIC brought the case to the secretary’s office, who referred it to the attorney general, who then referred it to Cuyahoga County, according to LaRose’s team.

But Ohio won’t have this resource anymore.

Leaving ERIC

LaRose removed Ohio from the anti-voter fraud initiative in March for a few reasons, the secretary’s spokesperson Rob Nichols said.

“It was saddle-bagged by politics,” Nichols said. “And as states continue to defect, the value to Ohio was dropping.”

LaRose thought it was a crucial system for Ohio even one month before dropping it. In a press conference, he said “It is one of the best fraud-fighting tools that we have when it comes to actually catching people that try to vote in multiple states.”

But internal politics were getting in the way, he said.

“Some of the people involved, I think, have caused concern for others.”

Only state members can vote on policies, but some states were upset that non-state staff can be “partisan,” the Brennan Center explained.

LaRose said he decided to leave because ERIC “appears to favor only the interests of one political party,” he said in his exit letter.

Case Western Reserve University law professor Atiba Ellis shares another reason why Ohio most likely left.

“It seems based on voter fraud talk and conspiracy theories about ERIC somehow not serving its purpose and serving some other nefarious purpose,” Ellis said.

Numerous Republican states have all up and left ERIC after the 2020 election. This followed what NPR called a right-wing media campaign to target the organization — claiming it allowed Democrats to rig elections.

Voter Fraud

Voter fraud is basically non-existent in Ohio, Ellis said.

“The amount of voter fraud that happened, someone intentionally trying to subvert an election by voting twice or by trying to impersonate someone else is next to zero,” he added.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio or in the country.

As of October 2022, LaRose sent 75 allegations of fraud during the 2020 election to law enforcement, which amounts to just .001% of all Ohio ballots. However, when OCJ/WEWS asked his team how many of these claims have been substantiated, they said they did not know.

ERIC’s value

“It seems ironic that Ohio has pulled out of ERIC, [when] evidence developed by the ERIC system revealed an incident of voter fraud,” Ellis said.

Senate President Matt Huffman has supported Ohio’s efforts to tighten election security through moves critics say make it tougher for many people to vote amid unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

OCJ/WEWS asked Huffman if he thinks leaving ERIC was a good idea. He claimed not to know what it was.

“Is this something I should know a lot about?” he responded. “Sorry, that’s not in my bailiwick of things to know about or think about.”

Moving forward

The LaRose team said they understand how valuable voter data is.

“We are in conversation with other states right now to stand up an organization, devoid of politics, that can provide the valuable information to prevent double voters.”

Marrozi says that organization already exists — ERIC.

“This man from Shaker Heights purportedly voting twice in Ohio, in Florida, in multiple elections, this is exactly what ERIC was designed to prevent,” Marrozi said.

Saunders’s arraignment is set for early May. OCJ/WEWS reached out to numerous phone numbers and emails for him, but didn’t hear back.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.