Nine activists in Los Angeles were arrested after they were caught bribing homeless people to sign or forge signatures on petitions near skid row.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the political activists would pay off homeless people with a dollar or a cigarette in order to get a signature for whatever project they were being paid to promote.
Prosecutors told the Times that the nine people charged in the election fraud scheme had bribed hundreds of homeless people to get them to participate in their campaigns in 2016 and 2018. The activists were working to gather voter registrations and petition signatures for statewide ballot initiatives.
“That’s an assault on our democracy,” explained Officer Deon Joseph to the Times.
Officer Joseph explained that the political structure in California makes some people feel incentivized to use sketchy or illegal methods of gathering signatures because many ballot initiatives hire field staff that is paid per signature they bring in.
The activists bribing homeless people on skid row were caught by an undercover police officer asking for illegally forged signatures from the skid row residents. While it is illegal to forge a signature, the police did not arrest any homeless people who participated in the scam. They only arrested the activists.
Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County elections chief told the Times he is concerned about “any activity that causes voters to lose faith in the process.” However, he had faith that his team reviewed every signature to ensure it matched the registration, hopefully catching any fraudulent signatures.
Californians have voted on ballot initiatives on dozens of issues over the two years on issues ranging from a soda tax to the death penalty. In 2016, there were 17 initiatives on the ballot. In 2018, there were 11.
The nine people arrested for the election fraud scheme could face up to four years and eight months in prison for crimes.