Officials in California have launched a voter fraud investigation after dozens of people in Orange County said they had been tricked into registering as Republicans by campaigners who said they were petitioning for marijuana decriminalization and other causes.
An investigative report published in the Orange County Register found that “the con occurred at the end of January and the beginning of February at places like Cypress College and Golden West College, and outside of discount stores like Wal-Mart and Food 4 Less.”
The Register reported:
Since mid-March, at least 99 written complaints have been submitted to state elections officials by Orange County residents who say they were registered to vote Republican without their consent. The Register found an additional 74 voters who said they were duped or coerced into registering to vote as a Republican by signature gatherers who initially asked them to sign petitions for causes like legalizing marijuana, fighting cancer or cleaning up beaches.
[Targeted individuals] were rushing to class or heading to their car or on their way to the store when a signature gatherer stopped them and asked if they’d like to sign a petition. Harried but wanting to help, they listened to the pitch, liked what they heard and signed Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and then watched as the petitioner produced more papers to fill out. Now suddenly faced with more to sign, they scribbled their information as fast as they could, many failing to notice that they were filling out a voter registration card.
The campaigners evidently targeted people generally considered less likely to be politically active, such as young voters. The Register reports all the voters it identified as having been scammed were under 28 years old, and “many said they knew little about politics or voting. A few, when told they were listed on the county voter rolls as a Republican, asked, ‘What is a Republican?'”
So far, it is not clear whether the responsibility for the alleged fraud leads to the Orange County Republican Party. The party last week requested that the district attorney investigate the allegations, which the DA is now doing, with the help of California’s secretary of state.
But the Register suggests that the blame may lie with the county GOP’s practice of paying an $8 “bounty” for every new Republican registration.
“With this particular system, the incentives are there for petitioners to incorrectly or fraudulently submit voter registration materials without the voter’s knowledge,” CalTech political science professor R. Michael Alvarez told the Register. “Clearly, if we could eliminate these bounties, it would eliminate the incentive.”
The Orange County Democratic Party has ripped into their Republican rivals over the issue.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“For the second time since 2006, Orange County Republican-paid operatives have engaged in deceptive and fraudulent voter registration by signing up college students as Republican voters without their consent,Ã¢â‚¬Â county party chairman Frank Barbaro said in a statement. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am calling for the Ã¢â‚¬ËœgrownupsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in the Republican Party to step up and start acting as responsible adults and to stop this voter registration fraud. Paying an $8 Ã¢â‚¬ËœbountyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to operatives who in turn deceive students who sign registration cards is not only illegal but an act of desperation by a political party whose appeal is fading fast in Orange County and across the nation.”
Barbaro was referring to a similar situation in Orange County in 2006, when the Register “found a similar fraud pattern in Orange County that was blamed, in part, on the bounty paid to signature gatherers. That year 167 voters complained to election officials that they were switched to Republican registration without their permission.”
The Reigster’s investigation has been ongoing for the past two weeks. It was brought to the national media’s attention by TalkingPointsMemo.