By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Prosecutors have charged a 35-year-old Glenoma resident with voter fraud, saying she registered to vote and then voted even though she’s not a U.S. citizen.
Marta Aglubi-Blomstrom filled out a voter registration form in the summer of 2009 and cast a ballot in the following November election, according to authorities.
Aglubi-Blomstrom is from Ghana, a West African country.
The issue came to the attention of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office almost two years ago, when Aglubi-Blomstrom’s estranged husband contacted them about it, according to charging documents.
Aglubi-Blomstrom will get her chance to make her plea in Lewis County Superior Court a week from Thursday.
It’s not a common offense prosecuted in Lewis County.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said he’s seen it only once locally since he came to work in Lewis County in 2004.
Mariann Zumbuhl, elections supervisor at the Lewis County Auditor’s Office, agreed instances of known voter fraud are rare.
Zumbuhl had to open a file drawer looking for a record of the last time she could remember someone registered to vote when they were not eligible. It was 1998 when a 15-year-old girl said she was 18, Zumbuhl said.
“Juvenile brought her in and talked to her,” she said.
The Secretary of State’s Office state runs registered voter’s names through a database routinely to discover if anyone is underage, or a felon whose has lost their voting rights, or has died, according to Lewis County Election Specialist Heather Boyer.
“But there’s no way to check if someone’s a U.S. citizen,” Boyer said. There’s no database for that.
Aglubi-Blomstrom appeared in Lewis County Court in Chehalis last week after she was summonsed in.
Temporary defense attorney Bob Schroeter said she understood the charge, that she marked the wrong box as to whether she was a citizen and became registered to vote.
She works at Millard Refrigeration but her income of less than $2,000 a month qualifies her for a court appointed attorney, Schroeter said.
Meagher inquired as to her native language, and learned it was called Twi.
Judge Nelson Hunt allowed her to remain free on a $5,000 signature bond.
According to charging documents, Aglubi-Blomstrom filled out her voter registration form online. It was June 2009, and her husband spoke with sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Wetzel about the following March, according to authorities.
“(The Auditor’s Office) determined she answered no when asked if she was a U.S. citizen,” prosecutors wrote. “It was determined she later changed her answer to yes, so she was able to complete her voter registration.”
Sgt. Wetzel contacted Immigration and found she was not a citizen, they wrote.
False information on an application for voter registration is a class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison or $10,000.
Aglubi-Blomstrom was just finally charged at the end of this past December.
Elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer today said yes, it seemed like a lot of time went by from when the alleged offense was investigated and when it finally got charged.
It was one of almost 400 felony cases in the office on “referral status” when he took office in January of last year, Meyer said.
“Referrals” are cases law enforcement agencies have forwarded to the prosecutor to be evaluated if charges should be filed.
Meyer said he found a huge backlog.
He made it his goal to get through all of them in his first year, and he has, with help from some of his deputy prosecutors, he said.
All have either been charged, or declined or are active now, according to Meyer.
The types of cases they found in limbo run the gamut, he said. Such as the bigamy case seen in court last week, to bail jumping, failing to register and drug offenses, he said.
Meyer said the statute of limitations had not run out on any major alleged offenses, only some that were with the Cowlitz County Prosecutor’s Office from when the two offices shared a deputy prosecutor.