"Every vote is important and every voter and candidate needs to have faith in our system," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said in a statement announcing the charges. "The charges today should let people know that we take this seriously. This is not North Korea."
So how did a nun commit voter fraud?
According to the prosecutor's office and a court filing, the nun, Sister Marguerite Kloos, lived with Sister Rose Marie Hewitt until Hewitt's death on Oct. 4, 2012. Both Kloos, 54, and Hewitt, who was 78 when she died, were members of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, an apostolic Catholic community. Hewitt had requested an absentee ballot for the November election, and the ballot arrived in the mail just days after she died. Kloos allegedly filled it out, forged Hewitt's signature, and mailed it back. The county Board of Elections received Hewitt's ballot on Oct. 11.
Before the charge was filed this week, Kloos agreed to cooperate and plead guilty to one count of illegal voting. According to Cincinnati.com, Kloos also resigned last week as dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.
So far, no one has explained what compelled Kloos to fill out Hewitt's ballot. According to Kloos' biographical page on the College of Mount St. Joseph website, she holds both a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary and a master's degree from the University of Dayton. In addition to serving as a dean at the college, Kloos was also an associate professor in the Department of Religious and Pastoral studies.
"Dr. Kloos has taught a number of interdisciplinary courses drawing on eco-theology, a first passion from her undergraduate studies in environmental studies," the page reads. "She has also done research in feminist methodologies for cross-cultural spiritual care."
A Cincinnati Enquirer article from 2000 reported how Kloos once lived on a New Mexico Indian reservation for six years, and how she later co-led student field trips to Indian reservations in North Carolina, South Dakota and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
"My expectation is that students will have an experience of learning about other people, other cultures, and their spirituality," Kloos told the paper.
An obituary for Hewitt that ran in The Catholic Telegraph said she had been a Sister of Charity for 59 years, and that she had held a number of positions in schools over the years, including elementary principal of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Mt. Repose, Ohio.
TPM's attempts to reach Kloos and her lawyer were unsuccessful. The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati issued a statement on their website in response to the filing of the charge against Kloos.
"Sister Marge Kloos is a member in good standing of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati," Sister Joan Cook, president of the community, said in the statement. "This has been a very difficult time for her since October 4, 2012. We continue to support her with our love and prayers."
The county prosecutor's office is still investigating three additional cases of possible voter fraud referred to it by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. According to Cincinnati.com, nearly 422,000 votes were cast in the county last fall.