Monday, April 10, 2006
Lockyer, McPherson Say They Will Jointly Conduct Probe Into Claims of Voter Registration Fraud
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Friday they would jointly investigate allegations of voter registration fraud in Riverside and Orange counties.
McPherson had previously opened his own inquiry into the allegations and requested the Attorney General’s assistance, the two officeholders said in statements.
Elections officials in the two counties have been investigating claims that contractors hired by the local Republican Party organizations were submitting fraudulent registrations and/or re-registering Democrats as Republicans without their consent.
“The right to free and fair elections is fundamental to our democracy,” Lockyer said. “The allegations of voter fraud not only involve serious crimes, they also strike at the heart of our constitutional form of government. We will aggressively investigate these claims and vigorously prosecute those who broke state laws.”
McPherson declared that his department “has zero tolerance for fraud.” He said he would “continue to do everything within my power to make sure that the integrity of our democratic process is protected and the rights of our citizens are preserved.”
Both officials are candidates in this year’s elections. Lockyer is running for state treasurer after being termed out of his current office, and McPherson, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger following the resignation of Kevin Shelley, is seeking a full term in his current post.
Lockyer and McPherson noted that election fraud crosses over into the jurisdiction of their respective offices.
McPherson’s office is in charge of overseeing the elections process, including registration, and maintains an Elections Fraud Investigation Unit with authority to recommend prosecution. The attorney general has concurrent jurisdiction with county district attorneys to enforce criminal laws, and Lockyer noted that while the district attorneys have primary prosecutorial responsibility, “the Attorney General often will get involved where related acts of criminal conduct allegedly occurred in multiple jurisdictions.”
The Orange County Register reported recently that numerous voters for whom registration cards, registering as or changing their registration to Republican, were filed claimed that their signatures were forged or that they were duped by solicitors who told them to leave the party registration portion of the form blank. Some said they were told they were signing petitions to make it easier to track child molesters or fight breast cancer.
The county Republican organization, chaired by former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh, put the blame on its former contractor, Bader and Associates. The firm was paid on a per-registration basis.
Baugh told the newspaper the party no longer uses a contractor, overseeing its own registration efforts. He cast the party as a victim of the fraud, saying it paid to have members on its rolls when in fact those people will not vote Republican.
Riverside’s daily newspaper, the Press-Enterprise, reported last month that Arizona-based John Burkett Petition Management, which was previously reported to be under investigation by officials in San Bernardino County, had turned in hundreds of Riverside County registrations that were missing required driver-license or state-identification numbers.
In San Bernardino County, the newspaper reported, problems with the more than 3,000 forms turned in by Burkett included cards being filled out by the coordinator instead of the voter and names registered multiple times in the past six months with different Social Security numbers, officials said. Many of those cards also omitted driver-license or state-identification numbers.
Democrats say the problems are largely the result of so-called bounty hunting, the payment of registration solicitors on a per-voter basis. The Riverside GOP told the Press-Enterprise it does not engage in the practice, and the San Bernardino party said it had no intention of paying the $25,000 billed to it by Burkett or using the firm in the future, and agreed with the calls for a state investigation.
McPherson Friday reiterated his support for legislation making it a misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having assisted a voter with registering to vote and requiring a statement on the voter registration card that warns circulators of the crime of falsely representing having assisted a voter to register.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company