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.
Marion County 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.
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.
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 2-1/2 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.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a Democrat, urged all sides to tone down the rhetoric.
Curry said the police investigation 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.
"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 said.
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 indicates the workers were paid $10 an hour and worked five-hour shifts.
The 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 offices of Patriot Majority USA in October. Patriot Majority has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
Curry said it's unclear how many problematic applications were submitted, but that it was "a relatively small number" of the 45,000 applications the group said it collected in Indiana.