FBI investigation of Reno voter complaints sought
October 2, 2004
RENO – Washoe County Voter Registrar Dan Burk says he’ll ask the FBI to investigate complaints that out-of-state groups submitted bogus voter registration forms and refused to register anyone but Republicans.
Burk said Friday his office got more than 15 phone calls from people who complained they were badgered into registering as a Republican or denied a form if they wanted to register with another party – an apparent violation of state law.
His office also received 15 voter registration forms that contained fake names written by the same hand. The problems have surfaced around a number of groups funded by the National Republican Committee to register voters in the final days before the election, Burk said.
The groups, who bused in organizers from out of state, hired temporary workers to register voters in Washoe County. When notified of the problem, Burk said the groups were very cooperative, fired some of their workers and voluntarily discarded another 40 voter registration forms that appeared inappropriate.
In the last two weeks, Burk said the group turned in more than 2,000 valid registration forms.
“The truth is, this is what happens when the process comes down to paying money for somebody to go and register voters,” Burk said. “But I feel they were dead serious about getting anybody out of the organization that was doing this and stopping the behavior.”
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Yier Shi, an RNC spokesman, said the Republican Party typically relies on volunteers to conduct voter registration drives. But with the Nov. 2 election nearing, the party has decided to hire a network of temporary employees for stepped-up efforts.
“We have legal training for all those hired, and we also establish mechanisms to check for fraud,” Shi said. “And if we find any inappropriate behavior, we hold the individual responsible and terminate their services immediately.”
Problems with fraudulent voter registration forms have become routine in Clark County this year, prompting an ongoing probe by the Nevada Division of Investigation.
Katherine Lackey, 36, a Democrat, said that she was approached at a grocery store by a member of one of the groups who handed her a voter registration form and said to fill it out, but leave the party affiliation space blank.
Lackey refused. She called the Democratic Party, the voter registrar and the Nevada secretary of state to complain.
“It seems very shady to play with state registration forms and potentially tamper with someone’s registration,” she said. “It is disenfranchising people who would vote.”