Back on May 18th, there was big news when felony charges were made against four people for signature fraud:
The warrants were issued last week, but only one suspect is in custody. Keven Hayes, listed as homeless in the warrant, was arrested in Columbia on three counts of forgery. He doesn’t have an attorney listed in court documents, but he is scheduled for a Tuesday court hearing. He is being held on $13,500 bail.
Investigators allege that he submitted petitions with 363 signatures from Boone County, including names of deceased individuals and three people who when contacted said they hadn’t signed the petition. Hayes collected signatures on behalf of Buzzard Bay Strategies, which paid bonuses to those collecting the most signatures. The Boston-based company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday from The Associated Press.
Forgery warrants also were issued for Tracy Renee Jones, Danny Lawrence Williams and Rogell Coker Jr., according to court records. None had publicly listed phone numbers in Missouri, and court documents indicate investigators couldn’t find current addresses for any of them.
These folks were collecting signatures for early voting, a Democrat led initiative.
Secretary of State Jason Kander didn’t waste any time, taking credit for everything:
“I have zero tolerance for fraud of any kind, and will always be proactive and vigilant in investigating any report of its occurrence. My office’s Elections Integrity Unit conducted an investigation resulting from reports of initiative petition signature fraud in 2014. This investigation was referred to Boone County law enforcement and has now led to the filing of felony charges against four individuals. One of those individuals, Keven Hayes, has been arrested and the remaining three—Tracy Jones, Danny Lawrence and Rogell Coker—currently have outstanding warrants for their arrest. I thank Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren and Boone County law enforcement for their work on these cases, and look forward to these individuals being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
If that’s the case, why did his office refuse to cooperate with Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, a Democrat, regarding a fraud case pertaining to early voting?
A probable cause statement is submitted to judges along with the information alleging specific crimes. If a judge determines the statement is sufficient to show a crime was committed and there is cause to believe the person named committed it, an arrest warrant is issued.
“We are not law enforcement, in terms of probable cause statement,” said Laura Swinford, spokeswoman for Kander.
The cases should be referred to a police agency, said Knight, a member of Kander’s Elections Integrity Task Force who said he told Kander at its first meeting two weeks ago “that in order for us to file charges in these types of cases, we have to have an investigation by law enforcement.”
All they had to do was refer it to law enforcement, like Knight told them.
Curious this was even a news story.
Especially considering Knight wasn’t the only prosecutor to tell Kander’s office this:
Buchanan County Prosecutor Dwight Scroggins Jr. said he responded to Kander’s office by suggesting it should work with law enforcement agencies for further investigation. The secretary of state’s office hasn’t subsequently referred the cases to the Buchanan County sheriff or local police, said Kander spokeswoman Laura Swinford.
Seems to me they could have been more aggressive in making sure these individuals were “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
All of them:
Today, Sen Will Kraus, (R-Lee’s Summit) called upon Secretary of State Jason Kander to do more to help with the prosecution of individuals suspected of committing signature fraud.
This morning, Secretary of State Jason Kander issued a statement taking credit for felony charges brought against four individuals in Boone County suspected of signature fraud. The felonies related to events occurring as part of a campaign to place an early voting scheme on Missouri’s ballots in 2014.
That same year, eleven local election authorities expressed concerns regarding irregularities with signatures. The Secretary of State responded by forwarding a letter to local prosecutors in only seven counties.
And a study shows it may have been even more widespread:
Graves Garrett examined a number of counties’ signature pages and ultimately found potential petition signature fraud and/or forgery to have occurred in 15 of the 69 counties examined. Of these 15 counties, 9 were found to have a relatively substantial of suspected petition signature fraud and/or forgery.
Although suspected petition signature fraud and/or forgery was committed by as many as 81 separate petition circulators, a large portion of the approximately 2,251 improper signatures are attributable to a handful of circulators. One individual alone accounts for 702 problem signatures (31% of the total). The three most prolific offenders account for 1,266 (56%) signatures. When the group is expanded to the top seven offenders, the number jumps to 1,825 (81%). Thus, while the signature problems are widespread, a handful of individuals are responsible for the lion’s share.
Seems to me that if a person has “zero tolderance for fraud of any kind,” there should be around 81 people facing charges.
Kraus wants Kander to do more:
“Instead of taking credit for the work of local law enforcement and prosecutors, Kander should do a full review of all counties that were not forwarded to prosecutors,” said Kraus. “If Secretary Kander is serious about reducing fraud, he should work with local law enforcement in all eleven counties to help move the process forward.
What do you think?