SALT LAKE CITY — Two men who had been gathering signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot are now facing charges of forgery and election misconduct.
Arthur L. Moss, 56, was charged in 5th District Court on Thursday with forgery, a third-degree felony, and election misconduct, a class A misdemeanor.
Those charges come on the heels of those filed in March against Jacob Lee Western, 33, of Hurricane. He was charged in 5th District Court with forgery, a third-degree felony; recording false information, a third-degree felony; and election misconduct, a class A misdemeanor.
According to court records, on Feb. 27, a petition was turned into the Washington County Clerk's Office for the Utah Decides Healthcare Act of 2018. But the clerk's office noticed that "some of the names, addresses and signatures appeared suspicious."
Authorities were asked to investigate and "determined that multiple names/signatures in the petition were in fact forgeries," the charges state.
At least seven people said their signatures were forged, and at least one person whose signature appeared on the petition was confirmed to be dead, court documents state.
Western, the person who submitted the petition, was arrested. After interviewing him, he gave investigators Moss' name.
When interviewed by police, "Arthur said he got the (forged) names out of the white pages in a phone book," according to charging documents.
Utah Decides Healthcare is a citizen’s ballot initiative to allow Utahns to vote on whether to expand Medicare in the state. Group organizers said they had submitted more than 165,000 signatures, well above the 113,000 total required, to clerks by the deadline on Monday.
The charges are similar to ones filed in February in 2nd District Court in Weber County.
Two employees of a Utah-based signature-gathering company were accused of forging signatures on petitions on the Utah Medical Cannabis Act.
Alexander James Burke, 22, was charged with five counts each of forgery, a third-degree felony, and violation of petition procedures, a class A misdemeanor. Emma Riches, 21, was charged with eight counts of each charge.
The two were employed by Gather, a signature-gathering company that pays its employees per signature, and the charges indicate they had received $2,080.45 for the names they turned in.2 comments on this story
Also in February, Paul James Patterson, 38, of Layton, another Gather employee, was charged with three counts of misconduct of electors or officers, a class A misdemeanor.
State elections officer Justin Lee said Thursday that the state was aware of all the cases, and it shows that counties are doing their jobs to verify signatures and that an effective checks-and-balance system is in place.
"Anytime you have people being paid to gather signatures there’s a chance for this to happen," she said.
Contributing: Ladd Egan