Following allegations of fraud, the California Secretary of State’s office has opened an investigation into possible election code violations made by campus petitioners last Nov.
The allegations concern several independent contractors who asked students to sign a petition to “help children with cancer” while tabling in front of the UCen and Arbor from Nov. 12-15. 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. The Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigations Unit opened the case after it obtained a video of the petitioner’s alleged actions from UCSB sociology graduate student Erik Love.
Love said he sent the video to the Secretary of State’s FIU and later received confirmation from the office about a potential investigation via mail on Dec. 18.
“I saw on the Daily Nexus and other media outlets that [the Secretary of State’s office] was just trying to collect as much information as it could,” Love said. “So that’s exactly what I did. I’ve been in contact with the Fraud Investigations Unit and we’ve talked about the video.”
In the FIU’s letter to Love, the unit wrote that it reviewed Love’s video and would examine the incident for “possible violation of Elections Code 18600 (misrepresentation) and Elections Code 18602 (obscuring the summary of a measure).”
Meanwhile, Kate Folmar, press secretary for the CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said the office does not discuss any potential investigations, but she described the department’s typical inquiry process.
“The first step would be to do a probe,” Folmar said. “If it is determined there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, [the case is] referred to a prosecutor. It is confidential until a prosecutor files charges.”
Additionally, Folmar said the FIU sends out standard response letters to those who contact the organization regarding election fraud.
At the time of the petition fraud allegations, Love had worked for the Courage Campaign, a nonprofit progressive organization that centers on promoting public education, healthcare for all Californians and environmental protections, among other issues. It also promotes a campaign against the Presidential Election Reform Act – a ballot measure that, if passed, would award the winner of California’s presidential election only two electoral points rather than its normal 55. The state would then divide its remaining points among its 53 districts and award them to the candidate who won in each region.
The Courage Campaign dispatched Love to film the petition-gatherers at UCSB, following a tip by history graduate student Steven Attewell, who also contacted the Daily Nexus. Love was sent by the Courage Campaign due to the alleged link between the petition-gatherers and the Reform Act.
“The main thing we were trying to do with the video is to make sure that people in California know the depths to which [the reapportionment initiative] campaign will go to get signatures,” Love said. “They’re willing to use children’s cancer as the bait.”
During a Nexus investigation in Nov., reporters had varying experiences with the petitioners. Some were given vague descriptions of the additional measures, while others were simply told to sign three times for the cancer initiative with no mention of additional proposals.
Additionally, several reporters noted the titles and summaries of the additional measures were not clearly visible when the pages were flipped, due to a rubber band holding the pages together. In one case, a petitioner attempted to convince a reporter to add his signature to an initiative regarding eminent domain, despite the reporter’s insistence that he would prefer to research the topic first.
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 of which to the University of California general acute care hospitals. The remaining petitions focused on such unrelated topics as eminent domain and the electoral votes initiative.
As details of the possible probe are confidential, it is unknown how the FIU is conducting its investigation.
In addition, while Arno Political Consultants was the company that one subcontracted signature collector named as his employer during a Nexus investigation, it is not known how or if the company is related to the potential investigation.
APC was not available for comment, but in a Nov. interview, APC Representative Kellen Arno said the company is not directly involved with its subcontracted employees, but will look into the allegations.
“We are a very, very honest company and we want things done the correct way,” Arno said. “That’s something we don’t take lightly at all. They’re absolutely instructed to never do something like that.”
Love’s video of the petitioners is available online at http://www.nodirtytricks.com.