Twelve employees of a Democrat-linked group focused on mobilizing black voters in Indiana are accused of submitting fake or fraudulent voter registration applications ahead of last year’s general election in order to meet quotas, according to charging documents filed Friday.
Prosecutors allege that 11 temporary workers employed by the Indiana Voter Registration Project created and submitted an unknown number of falsified applications. According to a probable cause affidavit, a supervisor for those canvassers, Holiday Burke, was also charged, as was the group.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says state police found no evidence of voter fraud or voter suppression and that the charges against the workers arose from “a very bad, ill-advised business practice” of setting canvassers what appears to be a daily quota.
The Indiana Voter Registration Project's effort to register primarily black voters was overseen by Patriot Majority USA, which has ties to the Democratic Party, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and former President Bill Clinton.
Patriot Majority denies any wrongdoing. Spokesman Bill Buck on Friday declined to comment.
State Police began investigating the group in August after a clerk in Hendricks County near Indianapolis flagged about a dozen registration forms that had missing or suspicious information. That investigation expanded to 56 counties where Patriot Majority said it had collected about 45,000 voter registration applications before last November’s election.
All 12 defendants face one count each of procuring or submitting voter registration applications known to be false, fictitious or fraudulent. Eleven of them face one perjury count each, while the 12th — their supervisor — faces one count of counterfeiting.
If convicted on all the charges each defendant faces up to 2 ½ years in prison.
The Indiana Voter Registration Project faces the same charges as the supervisor. If convicted, the group could face a fine of $10,000.
During the campaign, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, raised the possibility of a “rigged” election. They offered no proof. Patriot Majority meanwhile asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division to determine whether the police investigation was an attempt to suppress black voters.
In October, Curry, a Democrat, urged all sides to tone down the rhetoric.
The investigation found workers had submitted bogus applications on behalf of nonexistent residents, submitted new applications for people who were already registered, and at least one application was submitted on behalf of a minor, he said.
A search warrant unsealed on Nov. 14 says some workers admitted to falsifying registrations, saying they faced the possibility of losing their temporary job if they didn’t register at least 10 new voters a day.
The probable cause affidavit says supervisors told canvassers “to obtain their quota by any means necessary.” Canvassers were paid $10 an hour and worked five-hour shifts.
“By giving someone a financial motive to [meet a quota] is what caused these canvassers to cut corners and do things that not only undermined the goal of having legitimate registered voters but led to a situation where we allege it bled over into criminal conduct,” Curry says.
Patriot Majority President Craig Varoga said last year that canvassers weren’t paid according to a quota system and had been instructed that it is illegal to provide false information on voter registration forms.
The search warrant indicates that Patriot Majority submitted several hundred voter registration applications that included false, incomplete or fraudulent information. The warrant’s contents allowed state police to raid the Indianapolis offices of Patriot Majority USA in October.
Curry said it’s unclear how many problematic applications were submitted, but that it was “a relatively small number.”
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody distanced the party from the situation, saying in a statement that the third-party, out-of-state group displayed wrong-headed behavior, then failed to identify and stop the problem.
"The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has also made clear that there was no evidence of voter fraud," Zody says. "This is proof positive that the processes in place to protect the institution work."