Vote Fraud Found, Official Says

Times Staff Writer

The secretary of state’s office is looking into allegations by Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia that voters are being fraudulently registered in a race to represent eastern Riverside County and Imperial County, a district with one of the few competitive legislative contests this year.

After conducting spot-checks, Garcia (R-Cathedral City) said she found what she believed to be more than 2,000 fraudulent voter registrations in the counties, with some voters apparently registered multiple times. Riverside County Registrar Barbara Dunmore confirmed that her office had begun a random check of registrations.

“They feel with the impending election, of course, there’s urgency with this matter,” she said.


Garcia, running for reelection in the 80th Assembly District, said she asked for the review after discovering that hundreds of voters appeared to be registered multiple times, with slight variations in names, addresses and birth dates.

“We want them increasing the number of registered voters, but we want real voters, not phantom voters,” said Garcia, who will face Democrat Mary Ann Andreas, a tribal leader of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, in the Nov. 2 election.

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley sent Garcia a letter Tuesday acknowledging that his office was reviewing the allegations.

Dunmore said registration forms found with identical information were automatically flagged and reviewed by election officials.

But she also said her office must be cautious not to mistakenly exclude qualified voters.

“It’s an issue that we’re very concerned about,” she said of Garcia’s allegations. But “we don’t want to make any assumptions. We don’t want to disenfranchise any voters. We are doing all that the law allows us to do at this point.”


September voter-registration figures show that Democrats lead Republicans in the district, which includes Indio, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, El Centro and Calexico.

Both parties have been conducting strong voter-registration drives, along with several contractors who are being paid as much as $8 per person they register to vote.

And therein lies the problem, says Garcia, who won her seat by fewer than 2,500 votes in 2002.

But Eric Jaye, a consultant on Andreas’ campaign, questioned Garcia’s motives in asking for the inquiry. He said she raised no concern during a Republican registration surge earlier this year.

“If Bonnie Garcia’s intent is to make sure every registration is valid, that’s laudable,” he said. “If her intent is to suppress registration and turnout, that would be a tragedy.”

Garcia countered that she is questioning both Republican and Democratic registrations.

The Imperial County registrar of voters and Shelley’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Garcia called on Shelley to improve education for new voters, provide more resources to counties to guard against multiple registrations and to crack down on “bounty hunter” contractors who might be registering people more than once.

The allegations prompted Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley to urge county election officials to be on guard in November.

“We want people to get out and vote, but once is enough,” he said.