INDIANAPOLIS – Members of both parties from the St. Joseph County Election Board voted unanimously yesterday to ask the County Prosecutor, Indiana State Police, and the Indiana Attorney General to investigate potential fraudulent petitions for Rep. Braun’s campaign, including signatures that may have been forged.
The election board, made up of two Democrats and one Republican, made its decision at a hearing in South Bend yesterday afternoon based on the recommendation of the county’s voter registration board, also a bipartisan group of one Democrat and one Republican.
According to the South Bend Tribune, the voter registration board reviewed all signatures submitted by Rep. Braun’s campaign to St. Joseph County and found that:
- Numerous signers were not registered voters;
- Multiple signers were registered at different addresses than those written on the petitions;
- Many signatures on the petitions did not match signatures on file in the State Voter Registration System;
- And multiple separate entries appeared to be written by the same person, indicating that one person may have been filling out multiple signatures.
Petition fraud, including forging signatures on ballot access petitions, is a criminal act. A case arising in a similar situation in St. Joseph County that was also referred to prosecutors in 2011 resulted in a one-year prison sentence.
Rep. Braun’s campaign did not accept responsibility for any potential criminal activity, including the signature forgery. Instead, their campaign first sought to blame Blitz Marketing, an out-of-state contractor Rep. Braun used gather petition signatures. A campaign spokesman then tried to call the decision a “politically motivated attack” from the bipartisan board due to the fact that the board sits in the same county in which Joe Donnelly resides.
A Rep. Braun campaign staffer, however, admitted that complaints have been received from a number of other counties around the state. Jackson County officials had received a signature sheet containing an incorrect address and birth date for one voter, who when contacted stated that she had not signed the petition, one witness told the board.
This is not the first time Rep. Braun’s campaign has stumbled into trouble. Last year, his campaign fired an employee and renounced the signatures he’d gathered after reports revealed that he was the former leader of a white supremacist organization. This past month, his campaign was also called into question for reporting incorrect fourth quarter fundraising numbers to the media that overstated his contributions outside of his personal loan.
“A bipartisan commission has recommended that three bodies investigate Rep. Braun’s campaign and its petition gathering process. As with any other felony criminal investigation, we hope these investigations go where the facts take them — not only in St. Joseph County, but however far across the state these fraudulent petitions have been filed,” said Michael Feldman, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party. “But no matter the legal consequences, it’s clear to voters that Rep. Braun’s campaign is so desperate for grassroots support that it needed to pay an out-of-state group to get his petitions, and so amateurish that two different petition gatherers have now brought it shame.”