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Ballot Initiative Signature Fraud Charges Hit Two In Weber County

Bob Nelson

Two people are charged with forgery and violations of state petition procedures under Utah's election code.Weber County Attorney ChrisAllred's office announced the charges Wednesday without naming the individuals. A statement from his office says on December 28, 2017, staff at the Weber County Elections Office suspected that a number of signatures in thirteen petition packets were forgeries during the verification process. 

The packets were for petitions to legalize medical cannabis and the Count My Vote initiative, which would establish a direct primary system. 

The elections office then contacted the Lt. Governor's Office and the Weber County Attorney's Office for further investigation, based on those suspicions.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch says it's affirmation that every single signature in petitions is reviewed and verified to be authentic. He says the issue was "discovered by vigilant election employees, trained in handwriting analysis, who followed procedures, and took the appropriate action."

Court records name Emma Riches as defendant and Alexander James Burke as co-defendant. It lists 8 counts of forgery, a 3rd degree felony and 8 counts of violation of petition procedures, a class A misdemeanor.  

There are six ballot initiatives being circulated for signatures statewide to be placed on the ballot for Election Day this November.

NOTE: This story was updated from the original to add details including the specific ballot initiatives and the defendant and co-defendant in the case.

Bob Nelson is a graduate of the University of Utah with a BA in mass communications. He began his radio career at KUER in 1978 when it was still in Kingsbury Hall. That’s also where he met his wife, Maria Shilaos, in 1981. Bob left KUER for commercial radio where he worked for 25 years, and he is thrilled to be back at KUER. Bob and his family are part of an explorer group, fondly known as The Hordes and Masses, which has been seeking out ghost towns and little-known places in Utah for more than twenty years.
Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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