Benton Harbor activist charged with election law violations turns himself in
A well-known Benton Harbor activist turned himself in today.
He's facing "election fraud charges" less than two weeks before a recall election he helped create.
Edward Pinkney, 65, is accused of changing the dates on recall election petitions for Mayor James Hightower.
A Berrien County jail deputy tells us Pinkney turned himself in late this morning. He has already bonded out.
He is also accused of allowing people to sign the petitions more than once.The Berrien County Clerk says she will seek a court order to try and stop the recall election, which is scheduled for May 6.
A judge will hear the case on Tuesday.
Statement sent to WSBT from Mayor Hightower:
I am not surprised by the outcome of this investigation, our team challenged over 190 issues with the petitions. This is not the first time this individual has been involved in something like this. There are laws that govern this process and they must be adhered too. This is an answer to prayer, because if they could violate these voter laws and get away with it, Benton Harbor citizens are unprotected, and any elected official could be unfairly removed. I really can't comment any further until I receive additional information.
The following release was sent to WSBT by the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office:
On November 6, 2013, the Berrien County Election Commission approved language filed by James Cornelius to recall Mr. Hightower "for voting 'No' to not allow the city income tax to be placed on the November 5, 2013 ballot." Thereafter, Mr. Cornelius had to collect 393 signatures to proceed with a recall election. The proponent of a recall has 60 days to file petitions from the date of the first signature. Mr. Cornelius submitted sufficient petitions to the County Clerk on January 8, 2014 and a recall election was subsequently set for May 6, 2014.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department investigated allegations of irregularities in the filing of the petitions. As a result of the investigation, Edward Pinckney is charged in five counts with changing dates on 5 petitions from the original date signed by a petition signer to a new date later in time, and causing them to be submitted or aiding in their submission to the Berrien County Clerk. Election forgery is a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Further, as a circulator of petitions Pinkney is charged in 6 counts with allowing the same person to sign more than one time and asserting in the circulator's certificate that he did not permit that to occur, each a 90 day misdemeanor.
Also charged is James Cornelius, 59, of Benton Harbor, with 1 count of permitting a signer of a recall petition to sign more than once and permitting signers on his petition to sign out of his presence, a 90 day misdemeanor.
Pinkney was arrested and convicted on similar election fraud charges in 2008.