Shocking election fraud allegations have stained a state's 2008 presidential primary - and it took a college student to uncover them.
"This fraud was obvious, far-reaching and appeared to be systemic," 22-year-old Ryan Nees told Fox News, referring to evidence he uncovered while researching electoral petitions from the 2008 Democratic Party primary in Indiana.
Nees’ investigation centered on the petitions that put then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the ballot. As many as 150 of the names and signatures, it is alleged, were faked. So many, in fact, that the numbers raise questions about whether Obama’s campaign had enough legitimate signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
"What seems to have happened is that a variety of people in northern Indiana knew that this fraud occurred, and actively participated and perpetuated the fraud, and did so on behalf of two presidential campaigns," according to Nees.
Prosecutors are now investigating. The scandal has already led to the sudden resignation Monday night of Butch Morgan, chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party. He denied any wrongdoing, saying he looks “forward to an investigation that will exonerate me."
Nees, a junior at Yale University, served as an intern in the Obama White House last year and supports the president’s re-election. But as an intern at the non-partisan political newsletter Howey Politics Indiana, he delved into the Byzantine and complicated world of petition signatures and found reams of signatures that he says appeared to be written in the same handwriting, some apparently copied from previous petitions.
The names were subsequently submitted to Indiana election authorities as the signatures of legitimate voters. Nees and Brian Howey, the newsletter's publisher, then teamed up with the South Bend Tribune to break the story.
St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Dvorak announced Tuesday that the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana will not be investigating these allegations. So Dvorak is doing so and has requested the assistance of the Indiana State Police.
In a statement, Dvorak said the U.S. attorney “does not investigate allegations of fraud in the submission of petitions by political parties for the placement of the names of candidates on the ballot for federal primary elections. They do, however, investigate fraud in voter registration, the actual voting process and in the tabulation of ballots.”
The state Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb had called for a federal investigation.
"We don't know the extent of the crime. We don't know how many people. We don't know if it was organized. Those were some of my questions. How deep does it go? Does it go to one county? Does it go to one district? Does it go to one state? Does it go to 49 other states?"
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker also supports an investigation. He released a statement that said, in part, "We continue to fully support the investigation into this isolated incident in St. Joseph County. We want to know who committed this act, and we want that person held accountable."
Nees thinks the candidates did not have knowledge of the alleged forgeries, but he says such things can easily happen.
"This appears to have been the actions of the northern Indiana political machine that operated within the Indiana Democratic Party, not within the campaigns of either President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton," he said.
"What's important to me is that this sort of thing not occur in the future. This happened with impunity because no one thought that they would ever get caught, and in fact it was likely that no one would ever catch them because no structural safeguard existed to ensure that this wouldn't occur."
Howey, the publisher of the political newsletter, told Fox News he also plans to examine the petitions that put Sen. John McCain’s name on the Republican ballot. “It makes sense to look at the whole thing,” he said.
As Nees sat on a bench on the leafy downtown green in New Haven, Conn., with the imposing ivy and Gothic architecture of Yale behind him, he reflected on what he had found back home in his home state.
"Election fraud is particularly troublesome, because it undermines the integrity of our voting process and basically of our democracy. Maintaining the integrity of elections in the United States is an important thing."
If you suspect Voter or election fraud where you live, contact the Fox News Voter Fraud Unit, at: Voterfraud@Foxnews.com.
Eric Shawn, a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC), joined the network when it launched in 1996. He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. Shawn also regularly reports from the United Nations. Most recently, he was live from Boston to report on the developments in the Boston Marathon bombing. He also reported on politics and terrorism, and hosted the hour long "Stealing Your Vote" during the 2012 election, and the"John McCain: Character and Conduct" special during the 2008 election. Prior to that, he provided live coverage from both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions during the 1992, 1996 and 2004 elections.