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Weber County files charges in apparent signature gathering forgery

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Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 23:04:19-05

WEBER COUNTY, Utah – Weber County Attorney Chris Allred filed charges against two individuals for forgery and violation of petition procedures on Feb. 22.

The forgery and violations are said to be in violation of Utah’s election code, a press statement released by Weber County said.

“On December 28, 2017, staff at the Weber County Elections Office suspected that a number of signatures in thirteen packets that had been turned in for verification were forgeries,” the press release said. “Based on this information, the Elections Office contacted the Lt. Governor’s Office and the Weber County Attorney’s Office for further investigation.”

According to documents released in Second Judicial District Court of Weber County, Alexander Burke, 22 and Emma Riches, 21 both had agreed to gather signatures for a company called Gather.

Documents stated that the two were gathering signatures for the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, and for the Direct Primary Election.  The two were reportedly supposed to be paid money for each valid signature that they turned in.

“As election clerks began comparing the signatures on the petitions to the voter rolls they noticed that many of the signatures turned in by Emma and Alexander appeared to be forgeries,” the court documents said.

The two were paid a total of $2,080.45 for the signature packets they turned in.

Riches was charged with six counts of forgery and eight counts of violation of petition procedures. Burke was charged with five counts of forgery and five counts of violation of petition procedures.

Six statewide initiatives are being circulated for signatures in order to be placed on the elections ballot in November.

“The charges that were filed on February 22 are a clear indication that the Weber County Clerk/Auditor, the Elections Office, and the Weber County Attorney take allegations of forgery seriously and work hard to safeguard the democratic process by ensuring that proper election procedures are followed,” the press release said.  “So far, this issue is isolated to two of the statewide initiatives.”

“I’ve been asked if we really review every signature in an election or a petition.  Yes we do,” said Ricky Hatch, Weber County Clerk/Auditor.  “Every county in the state looks at every signature, every time, whether it’s on a vote-by-mail envelope or in an initiative packet.  Detailed controls such as these safeguard the integrity of our elections.”