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Voter Fraud Charges Probed

The state is investigating allegations of improper GOP signups in Orange and Riverside counties.

April 08, 2006|Ashley Powers and Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writers

Investigators for California's attorney general and secretary of state have launched an inquiry into allegations of voter registration fraud in Orange and Riverside counties, state officials said Friday.

The investigation comes a month after the California Republican Party suspended its paid voter registration program, following the discovery by elections officials in Orange and San Bernardino counties of thousands of flawed registration forms submitted by private firms the county parties had hired.

Elections officials turned over those forms to local prosecutors and the secretary of state. The state Democratic Party requested that the attorney general investigate.

A statement released Friday by the California Republican Party said it welcomed the inquiry and that "one instance of voter fraud is one too many and any suggestion of voter fraud must be investigated."

Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties have recently received complaints from residents who said they had been improperly registered as Republicans, elections officials said.

It was unclear Friday whether the allegations in Riverside County stemmed from those complaints. "To my knowledge, we don't have any gross irregularities in our registrations in Riverside County," said county Registrar Barbara Dunmore.

Orange County officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The San Bernardino County district attorney's office has chosen to head its own investigation, though there appears to be "significant overlap" in the conduct of signature-gatherers in the three counties, said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer.

The state GOP voter registration program paid private contractors $3 for each new registration submitted.

It was credited with adding 750,000 Republican registrations to state voter rolls in the last three years.

State Democrats run a similar program, but said they pay only volunteers affiliated with party clubs or committees.

In Orange County, the voter fraud allegations have centered on a subcontractor working for Bader & Associates, a Newport Beach-based signature-collection firm.

Contractor Christopher Dinoff appears to be connected to the 100 or so cases of alleged improper registration, Orange County election officials have said. Bader also hired John Burkett, who took charge of the San Bernardino County GOP's registration program this year.

Election officials said Burkett had turned in thousands of flawed voter registration forms to the San Bernardino County registrar's office, including 1,800 that lacked driver's license numbers or other forms of required identification.

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Times staff writer Jean O. Pasco contributed to this report.

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