2 women to face voter fraud charges
Two Mesa County women are facing possible voter fraud charges from second ballots they allegedly cast during the November election.
Cynthia Katherine Castaneda, 51, admitted to forging her nephew’s signature on his mail-in ballot while he voted legally in person. She could be charged with felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant and two counts of forgery, according to her arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, Shelby Rene Cohee, 57, could be charged with attempt to influence a public servant, forgery with an intent to defraud, falsely forging a mail ballot and voting more than once by mailing in her ex-mother-in-law’s ballot.
The mail-in ballot Castaneda allegedly signed in her nephew’s name was flagged because the 37-year-old man, Alejandro Castaneda, also voted in person the same day, according to an affidavit for her arrest.
Election supervisors following procedures for ballots that are declined sent a letter asking for a copy of an ID and a signature form of the two ballots.
After the cases were turned over to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, investigator James Cannon wrote in one affidavit that Alejandro Castaneda said he voted in person, but not with his mail-in ballot.
“I noted that the signature on the in-person vote and signature on file appeared to match, but the mail ballot had a printed ‘A’ instead of the expected cursive ‘A,’ ” the investigator wrote.
Castaneda told Cannon he used to live with his aunt in the 500 block of Kirby Drive. Cannon asked for signatures from the people who still lived in the home, and found Cynthia Castaneda’s signature “remarkably similar” to the signature on the fraudulent ballot, Cannon wrote.
Castaneda, who is registered as unaffiliated while her nephew is a Democrat, initially denied knowing anything about the ballot.
“Cynthia then realized she had Alejandro’s ballot and since she was convinced of the power of every vote, she decided to use his ballot as well, forging his signature,” Cannon wrote. “Cynthia stated she realized what she did was wrong and was apologetic.”
Cohee, a registered Republican, told Cannon that she did something similar with her former mother-in-law, Sharray Fiske-Carpenter.
“Shelby stated she thought that she was doing something to help Sharray when she filled out the ballot and put it in the mail,” Cannon wrote. “After she put it in the mailbox, Shelby realized what she did was wrong and she tried to get the ballot back, but the post office told her she could not get it back.”
Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and County Clerk Sheila Reiner wouldn’t say how Castaneda or Cohee voted with the allegedly fraudulent ballots.
Amanda Polson, election director in the Mesa County Clerk & Recorder’s Office, said 79,673 ballots were cast in the November elections. Of those, 950 were rejected for various reasons, including people who needed to provide identification, people who submitted ballots without a signature, people who had a signature discrepancy and people who returned multiple ballots.
Castaneda and Cohee are the only people who are facing charges, Rubinstein said.
Staff writer Charles Ashby contributed to this report.