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Indiana Democratic Party Head Resigns as Fraud Probe Heats Up

 

The chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party announced his resignation Monday, as investigators probe allegations of election fraud stemming from the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Dan Parker, who served for seven years, did not cite the scandal as a reason for his decision. But the uproar over possible fraud in a race for the White House has already claimed the job of one county Democratic Chairman, who sources say was forced out because of the allegations.

Numerous signatures on petitions that placed then-candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the party's primary ballot were allegedly forged and then certified by the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Office in South Bend.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak has launched an investigation.

Parker, in a statement, said that "after seven years, it is time for a new leader to embrace our past successes and take up our future challenges." He also wrote that "I love the Indiana Democratic Party, and it has been my great honor to serve at its Chair."

Benjamin Ray, the Indiana Democratic Party press secretary, told Fox News that the forgery allegations involving the presidential primary petitions were not a factor in Parker's decision to step down.

"No, absolutely not," Ray said.

When the allegations first broke in October, Parker issued a statement that "we continue to support the ongoing investigation to determine how this isolated incident occurred and hold anyone involved accountable."

The alleged forgeries have raised the question whether the Obama campaign actually filed the necessary number of signatures, 500 from the county, to get on the state's primary ballot. The 534 signatures that were certified to place Obama's name in contention, were never challenged. 704 signatures were certified for Clinton, according to state elections officials. An estimated 150 of the signatures on both petitions may be fakes, leaving open the possibility that, in at least President Obama's case, the number of legal signatures that were required to get on the ballot was not reached.

Several voters told Fox News that they never signed nor gave their names that appeared on the Obama petitions.

"It's scary," Charity Rorie said, adding that her signature and name, and those of her husband, were faked.

"It's shocking ... it definitely is illegal.”

The chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, Eric Holcomb, released a statement reacting to Parker's departure, blasting the state's Democrats. He said that "much of the Democrat Party's decay in Indiana can be directly traced to running campaigns devoid of ideas, the expansion of their decades long culture of corruption and sound bites full of rhetorical snark."

Reports have said that as many as seven people may have been involved in a conspiracy to fake the petitions, but no charges have yet been brought.

So far, the only resignation citing the scandal came two months ago from long time St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan. His attorney, Shaw Friedman, issued a statement at the time that Morgan's staying on "in any capacity would be an unwanted distraction for candidates in the upcoming city elections."

Shaw said that "Butch Morgan has done nothing wrong and did not personally authorize, direct or condone the forgery or alteration of petition signatures."

"This is some political fallout from the St. Joseph's County situation," said Brian Howey, publisher of the nonpartisan political newsletter, Howey Politics Indiana, which broke the story of the scandal along with The South Bend Tribune. "Having said that, Parker was intent on stepping down sometime this year."

Howey reports that Parker's successor will likely be Tim Jeffers, a former candidate for secretary of state.

Morgan's attorney, Friedman, a former legal counsel for the state Democratic Party, said in a statement to Fox News that "I am pleased that someone as inclusive, principled and politically savvy as Tim Jeffers is likely to be the next leader of our state party."

If Jeffers does get the nod, it seems he will have to deal with the ongoing investigation that has touched a race for the highest office in the land.

Eric Shawn is a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET. and  “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.” He anchors frequently  during the week on the Fox News Channel and reports on politics, terrorism, and foreign affairs. Shawn has  provided live coverage from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions since 1992.  In 2004 he led the Fox News investigative team that uncovered new evidence in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, based on the claims of hit-man Frank Sheeran.  Click here for more information on Eric Shawn.