More signature thieves hit Salem, Portland

The Voter Education Project (VEP) has turned over evidence of forgery and fraud by initiative circulators to the Oregon secretary of state and attorney general's office.

VEP has asked for investigations of at least three circulators for illegal signature-gathering practices. The evidence points to continuing violations of election laws by paid signature gatherers even after the indictments of two other circulators in November and December of last year.

In documentation gathered by the Voter Education Project, Oregon citizens report that their signatures were forged by circulators in Salem and Portland. Even more common, however, was signature theft involving con-man tactics to lure voters into signing initiatives that the circulators misrepresented. In some cases, a circulator even offered T-shirts in exchange for signatures.

One of the complaints was filed against Francisco Holdman of Portland, a professional circulator who carries petitions for many different initiatives. Initiative signers have stated that Holdman misled them about the many petitions he was circulating on the Sylvania Portland Community College campus. Many say they were told that their signatures would benefit a charity that tutors disadvantaged children and that Holdman gave them a T-shirt in return for their signatures.

In another incident in Salem, Heather Bowman, 17, was approached in January by a circulator named Daniel Ricca. Bowman says she wasn't interested in his initiative which, she recalls, had something to do with taxes. She reports that Ricca was so aggressive she finally relented and stopped. When he learned she was too young to be a registered voter, Bowman says, the circulator handed her a voter registration card and told her he could turn it in for her because she would be 18 before the primary election in May. Then he had her sign his "tax measure" 20 different times. But she now suspects she signed 20 different initiative petitions or possibly duplicates of some petitions.

"He lied to me," says Bowman. "He told me that he needed carbon copies of all the petitions to send to supporters of the initiative. I didn't know any better at the time and now I don't know what I signed."

In addition to Ricca and Holdman, a complaint was filed against Harry Beuhler for similar offenses. Other witnesses say that the three petitioners were carrying at least seven initiatives, including two from Oregon Taxpayers United, two from anti-tax activist Don McIntire, the Life for a Life initiative and one that would require labeling for genetically engineered foods in Oregon.

According to these reports the circulators committed several felony violations of election laws. It is illegal to exchange something of value for an initiative signature. It is illegal for circulators to mislead voters about the effects of an initiative. It is illegal to solicit a signature from an unqualified voter. It is also illegal to sign a ballot initiative more than once, which it appears Ricca may have tricked Bowman and others into doing because at the time of her encounter with Ricca there were not 20 initiatives on the street.

"It's clear that there are more than just a few bad apples working the streets of Oregon," says VEP spokesperson Patty Wentz. "When circulators are paid bounties for signatures, some will say and do anything for the fast buck they get when voters sign ... including lie, cheat and steal."

The Voter Education Project has filed complaints against six circulators so far this election season. Last December one was convicted of forgery and another is awaiting trial.

For more information about the Voter Education Project, including information on Oregon election law relating to petition circulating go to: or call 1-800-295-5597 when you see paid signature gatherers.

April 5, 2002 issue

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