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D.A. Upgrades Inquiry of Dornan Allegations

December 17, 1996|PETER M. WARREN

The district attorney's office has upgraded to investigation status its inquiry into allegations of voter fraud and voting irregularities in the 46th Congressional District race.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Wally Wade said Monday that the investigation will attempt to determine "if there was or wasn't [a crime committed] and who perpetrated it" in the election that saw Democrat Loretta Sanchez beat Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) by 984 votes.

Secretary of State Bill Jones' office, which two weeks ago launched an investigation of the allegations, said the district attorney would assume the lead in any possible prosecution in the case.

The increased intensity of the review by the district attorney's office comes a week after several investigators from each agency met in Santa Ana to discuss the progress made by their offices since Dornan filed allegations of voter fraud and registration irregularities in the November election.

Wade declined to discuss the investigation's specifics.

"We have some areas to look at, but don't have any individual targets," he said.

Wade said that an investigation is warranted when "there is a reasonable basis [to believe] that a crime was committed," adding that in such an instance, "we will go out in the field and interview, or gather documents, in an attempt to make that determination."

Dornan alleges that noncitizens were encouraged to vote by Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a Latino empowerment group. The organization has denied the charge.

Dornan also has alleged that there were irregularities in the casting of absentee ballots, in particular that a tide of late-filed absentee ballots cost him the race in the central Orange County district.

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