In Wake of Indiana Petition Forgery Probe, New Rules Offered to Prevent Fraud

Allegations that forged signatures may have put Barack Obama's name on the 2008 Democratic primary ballot in Indiana have prompted new proposals to prevent possible election fraud in the current race for the White House.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak, in South Bend, is investigating allegations that numerous names and signatures that put Obama and Hillary Clinton on the state’s presidential primary ballot in 2008 were fakes. Those allegations have led to accusations that Obama may not have collected the number of signatures he legally needed to have his name on the primary ballot.

"Coming off of ACORN activities right into this, what is going to happen in 2012 when everything is at stake?" asked Eric Holcomb, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party.

"They seemed to have known about and, in fact, potentially perfected the art of forging signatures to get on ballots. What we now have learned is that getting out the vote equates to: 'How many votes do you need?"

"This is definitely out of the ordinary," State Sen. John Broden, chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, said of the questionable signatures. "My reaction was surprise. I have never been aware of a problem of this sort."

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Broden told Fox News that he is considering proposing changes in the way petitions are collected and verified to prevent any possible wrongdoing in next year's election.

"We need to institute some checks and controls," he said. "It is critical that voters have the utmost faith in our system."

Broden pointed out, for example, that petitions currently can be left out on tables for people to sign without any oversight. He also says that people who collect signatures do not legally have to note that they gathered the petitions, or even say that they believe the signatures are real.

"Under existing Indiana law, the person who gathers the signatures does not have to sign anything or indicate how they gathered the signatures ... the statue does not actually require a check of the signatures," Broden said

He said this creates an obvious loophole, and he thinks there should be an audit process to confirm that the petition signatures are genuine.

The petitions in question were certified by the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Board and were apparently signed off by both the Democratic and Republican Board members. The board is now reviewing its procedures regarding the processing of presidential petitions.

The alleged forgeries have raised the question of whether the Obama campaign actually filed the number of legal signatures, 500 from each congressional district, required to get on Indiana's primary ballot. Obama qualified in the 2nd Congressional District with 534 signatures, and Clinton had 704. But an estimated 150 signatures between both petitions may have been forged, according to reports, leaving open the possibility that, in Obama's case, the number of legal signatures he needed to put his name on the ballot fell short.

"He cheated," Holcomb said bluntly, charging that Obama "wouldn't have qualified to be on the ballot" if the alleged election fraud had been caught in time.

The Obama signatures were never challenged.

Obama lost to Clinton in the Indiana primary, but Holcomb said he believes his campaigning had an effect on his victory in the state in the general election.

"He came here 48 times, spent millions competing against Hillary Clinton to try and win the state in the primary. President Obama ultimately won Indiana by less than 1 percent, but without all that investment leading up to it, had he not been on that ballot in the primary, I don't think he would have won the state."

When asked if Obama might not have qualified for the ballot, Broden refused to speculate.

"That probably would have been an issue that may have had to have been decided by the legal process," Broden said. "Certainly, the statute requires that you have 500 signatures from registered voters throughout the congressional district."

The scandal led to the resignation in October of longtime St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan. His lawyer, Shaw Friedman, told Fox News that Morgan stepped aside because of party pressure, that Morgan had nothing to do with the alleged fraud and that he does not know who may have committed it.

The chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, Dan Parker, announced his resignation Monday after serving for seven years. His spokesman, Benjamin Ray, told Fox News that the election fraud allegations had no bearing on Parker’s decision.

Prosecutor Dvorak, a Democrat, has said that he "will continue to investigate this matter with the Indiana State Police and, where warranted, filed the appropriate criminal charges or present to a grand jury for indictment, all allegations of criminal conduct."

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