The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged nine people with more than a dozen felonies on Nov. 20, for allegedly offering cigarettes and cash to homeless people in exchange for forged signatures on voter-registration forms and ballot petitions.
The defendants allegedly solicited hundreds of false or forged signatures during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles by offering $1 and/or cigarettes to homeless people in the Skid Row neighborhood, according to a press release.
Three of the defendants face up to six years and four months in prison if convicted as charged. The rest face up to four years and eight months in state prison. The case, which was filed on Nov. 1, was unsealed on Nov. 20.
The voter fraud charges include registering a fictitious person and registering a nonexistent person. The defendants were also charged with circulating a petition with false names and use of false names on a petition.
The defendants were expected to be arraigned in a local court on Nov. 20, according to Deputy District Attorney Marian Thompson of the Public Integrity Division. The Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office are still investigating the case.
Prosecutors recommended that bail be set at $25,000 for each person.
With a homeless population of 5,000 to 8,000 people, Skid Row contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the United States. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) represents the area of Los Angeles encompassing that neighborhood.
Gomez was re-elected on Nov. 6, with 73 percent of the vote against Green Party candidate Kenneth Mejia. During the 2016 election cycle, then-Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) ousted fellow Democrat Adrienne Edwards. Becerra is now California’s attorney general.
According to a voter fraud database maintained by the Heritage Foundation, there have been 1,117 proven instances of voter fraud in the United States, which led to 1,019 criminal convictions. Four people were convicted in California in 2016 and 2017 for making false voter registrations.
On Oct. 20, two weeks before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump issued a warning to those who sought to engage in voter fraud.
“All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”