Following allegations of ballot petition fraud on campus last week, the Secretary of State’s Fraud Investigations Unit has yet to disclose whether or not it will look into the matter.
The allegations of petition fraud concern several independent contractors who tabled in the Arbor last Thursday and in front of the UCen on Wednesday, asking students to sign a petition to “help children with cancer.” Once students agreed to sign this petition, they were allegedly told to sign two or three additional papers for other unrelated initiatives without their knowledge.
In an e-mail, Kate Folmar, the press secretary for Calif. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said the department looks into allegations of voter fraud when contacted. If enough evidence is found, the next step is criminal prosecution.
“Secretary Bowen takes allegations of elections fraud seriously,” Folmar wrote. “She encourages anyone who has witnessed a violation of the California Elections Code to contact the Secretary of State’s Fraud Investigations Unit. Potential violations brought to the fraud unit’s attention are thoroughly investigated and referred for prosecution when there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.”
Witnesses can reach the Fraud Investigations Unit at (916) 657-2166.
Meanwhile, Arno Political Consultants – the company that one subcontracted signature collector named as his employer during a Nexus investigation – said it could not conduct any further internal investigations beyond notifying its employees without material proof, such as a videotape documentation.
According to Kellen Arno of APC, the company contacted the subcontracted employees’ advisors following the allegations.
“Their response was, ‘We’ll try to get to the bottom of it,'” Arno said. “At that point, without a name and without being able to see substantiated evidence, that’s the farthest it can go.”
Regarding the petitions, the first paper concerned the Children’s Hospital Bond Act, which would authorize the state to sell $980 million in bonds – 80 percent of which would go to hospitals concentrating on terminal childhood diseases and 20 percent going to the University of California general acute care hospitals – and the remaining petitions focused on such unrelated topics as eminent domain.
This is not the first set of allegations regarding petition-gathering fraud for APC. On Nov. 1, California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres held a press conference to ask Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate APC regarding tactics used for the petition to develop a new method to divide California’s electoral votes by congressional districts.
However, Arno said the organization has never been officially inspected regarding fraud allegations.
“We have never once ever been formally investigated by any governing body,” Arno said.
Arno also said the company was only circulating two of the four ballot petitions the collector on campus mentioned and that the other two allegedly came from some other petition-gathering company.
“We, [APC,] have that right to say, ‘No, you can’t circulate that and ours at the same time,'” Arno said. “Truth of the matter is, they, [the independent contractors,] don’t always ask us.”
Arno said he believed the representative named APC as his employer because his company is well known in the petition-gathering business.
“Typically when people ask, they say us because we’re the biggest company,” Arno said. “I don’t know why, it may just be easier to say, ‘We work for APC’ because that’s the only company they really know who they work for.”