A 75-year-old Hartshorne woman has been charged with 10 counts of false notarization of an absentee ballot. Each count is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.

Norma Bookout was charged Wednesday.

Each of the 10 charges alleges she falsely attested that a person had appeared before her and signed an absentee ballot. Seven of the 10 charges deal with the July 2004 Primary Election. Three of the charges deal with the April 2005 Hartshorne city election.

District Attorney Jim Bob Miller said the charges stem from an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. “This is part of a larger investigation in both Pittsburg and Haskell Counties involving voting irregularities and voter fraud,” Miller said.

He said he doubted if the Bookout’s alleged actions had any direct affect on the outcome of any elections “But that’s always a possibility. I’m looking at it from the standpoint of protecting public interest in an honest voting procedure.”

Bookout did not work for the Pittsburg County Election Board “As far as I know, and I’ve been here 23 years,” said Election Board Secretary Cathy Zukosky.

In October 2002, four people were charged in Haskell County with conspiracy to commit false notarization of an absentee ballot. The people, and the ages at the time they were charged, were Romonia Blunt,30, of Keota; Sammy Dwight Copeman, 31, of rural Stigler; Charles Copeman Jr., 28, of rural Stigler and Eddie Kay Copeman, 49.

The Haskell County investigation into the voter fraud allegations led to one of the largest single durg siezures and property forfeitures in the history of Southeast Oklahoma. More than 200 firearms, including sawed-off shotguns and fully-automatic firearms, were siezed when officers searched Eddie Copeman’s property in eastern Haskell Couny. Officers also siezed about $155,000 in cash, 1,225 grams of pure methamphetamine and a large amount of methamphetamine precursors used in manufacturing the drug, as well as 123 head of cattle and 17 horses.

“That case was so big we turned it over to the feds,” said Miller, who was the district attorney at the time.

Eddie Copeman is currently in a federal medium security unit in Memphis, Tenn., according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Blunt is scheduled to enter a plea in Haskell County on the voter fraud charges next week.

“Apparently the OSBI has been investigating in both counties for some time,” Miller said. “We’re going to be watching upcoming elections very closely for any irregularities.”

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