“There is no evidence that Butch Morgan condoned, authorized or directed the forging or alteration of any of the questioned petition signatures,” Friedman wrote in an e-mailed statement to The Tribune.
“Butch Morgan is known as a hard worker and a strong campaigner for his candidates,” Friedman said, “but he will not engage in or tolerate unethical or illegal conduct. That’s one of the reasons he’s had the support of the precinct organization and
On the WebFollow all The Tribune’s coverage of this issue at http://www.southbendtribune.com/forgery.so many elected officials all these years and has helped build one of the stronger campaign organizations in the state.”
Deb Fleming, chairwoman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party, issued her call for Morgan’s resignation earlier this week after The Tribune and Howey Politics Indiana published an article Sunday revealing hundreds of northern Indiana residents’ signatures were faked on petitions used to place Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the 2008 primary ballot.
The Tribune reported in another article this week that the county’s bipartisan voter registration office certified the pages in question during a period in early 2008 when Linda Silcott, the Republican head of the office, was out on bereavement leave. There likely are enough forged signatures that their exclusion would have meant Obama and possibly Clinton lacked enough to be on the ballot.
According to Kip Tew, former chair of the Obama campaign in Indiana, the St. Joseph County Democratic Party was among the groups and individuals that helped collect signatures to put Obama on the ballot in 2008. “Without a doubt,” he said.
But that is not uncommon, Tew noted. Local party organizations often participate in petition drives on behalf of candidates for federal office.
Candidates for president, governor and U.S. senator in Indiana need to collect 500 signatures from registered voters in each of the state’s nine congressional districts to qualify for statewide ballot.
Friedman said Morgan, who also is chairman of the state’s 2nd Congressional District for the Indiana Democratic Party, doesn’t remember — nor should be expected to remember — all of the volunteers who helped the party collect petition signatures during the 2008 campaigns.
Fleming clarified in an interview Friday that she does not believe Morgan was actively involved in the apparent fraud.
“I don’t think (Morgan) personally went out and solicited these signatures,” she told The Tribune, “but he is the one that appointed the people that work in voter registration, and he’s definitely the one who sets the tone and expectations for the people that work in the (Democratic) organization … so the buck has to stop with him whenever any egregious activity like this occurs.”
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak has opened an investigation into the suspicious petitions.
The heads of both the state Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for a federal probe. Indiana GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb sent a letter Friday to the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting such an investigation.
“What I want to know going forward is what happened, who was involved and what the appropriate punishment is for that crime,” Holcomb said in a news release.
Indiana Democrats also continue to support the investigation into what state Chairman Dan Parker called “this isolated incident in St. Joseph County.”
“We want to know who committed this act,” Parker said in a statement, “and we want that person held accountable. Like Republican Chairman Holcomb said, the focus right now needs to be on finding the person responsible in this case.”
Tribune staff writer Erin Blasko contributed to this report.
Staff writer Kevin Allen: firstname.lastname@example.org 574-235-6244
http://articles.southbendtribune.com/2011-10-14/news/30282149_1_signatures-petition-drives-voter-registrationBarack Obama 2008 Presidential Election Fraud Indiana,