Ballot Initiative Signature Fraud Charges Hit Two In Weber County
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.
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.