The group was hit with a dozen felony counts for allegedly offering money and cigarettes to homeless people in exchange for false and forged signatures on ballot petitions and voter registration forms.
Charges include circulating a petition with false names, voter fraud by registering a fictitious person, and voter fraud by registering a nonexistent person, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
The nine defendants offered $1 and/or cigarettes to homeless people for their participation during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles.
“They paid individuals to sign the names,” Los Angeles Police Officer Deon Joseph, the senior lead officer on Skid Row, where the voter fraud scheme allegedly played out, told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s an assault on our democracy.”
“Whether people are homeless or rich, no one is above the law,” Joseph added. “If they do it here, they will do it to any other disenfranchised group.” District attorney spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said that no homeless people were charged.
Three defendants, Kirkland Kauzava Washington, Harold Bennett, and Louis Thomas Wise, face eight counts each and up to six years and four months if convicted on all.
Washington, 38, set up a table on Sept. 21 outside the Midnight Mission, where homeless people line up for meals or beds, and began offering payment for signatures, police said.
The other defendants were Richard Howard, Rose Makeda Sweeney, Christopher Joseph Williams, Jakara Fati Mardis, Norman Hall, and Nickey Demelvin Huntley. They all face four counts and a maximum sentence of four years and eight months in jail.
The nine charges came after three people were arrested in May for allegedly running a voter fraud scheme in the same area.
“They were petitions, and so they’d have them sign that petition as a fictitious person and they’d receive minimal compensation for that signature,” LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar, a department spokeswoman, told NBC at the time.
Officers said thousands of dollars in cash and lists of registered voters in Los Angeles County were booked into evidence.
Voter and Election Fraud
According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, there has been 1,177 proven instances of voter and election fraud and 1,019 criminal convictions in the United States.
A number of convictions have come from California in recent years, including the conviction of two people for false registrations.
Former Manteca Unified School Board trustee Ashley Drain Hampton was sentenced to 15 months in jail in September after being convicted of election fraud and welfare fraud.
“The election fraud … made basically a mockery of our election system,” San Joaquin County Judge Charlotte Orcutt said of Hampton, who was found guilty—by a jury—of using a false address to get onto the 2014 ballot. “We have full, free elections here, but when our candidates lie to get on the ballot, that’s a problem.”
In another case, in San Francisco in March 2017, real estate agent and housing development advocate Donald Dewsnup pleaded no contest to two counts of false voter registration.