Young Political Majors (YPM) finds itself in yet another state defending itself again from the allegations that it's employees are duping voters, this time in California. This time the gatherers are asked to collect republican registration signatures and paid $7 to $12 per each signature collected, but the essence of the alleged deception (bait and switch) is the same as it was here in Massachusetts.
From the Los Angeles Times report by Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld:
Voters contacted by The Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.
It is a bait-and-switch scheme familiar to election experts. The firm hired by the California Republican Party -- a small company called Young Political Majors, or YPM, which operates in several states -- has been accused of using the tactic across the country.
Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit. Prosecutors in Los Angeles and Ventura counties say they are investigating complaints about the company.
In 2005 Massachusetts Family Institute, led by Kris Mineau, made a failed attempt to ammend the state constitution to limit marriage as between one man and one woman in order to exclude same sex marriages. This organization was responsible for hiring outside of the state "mercenaries" through Arno Political Consultants. Some were accused of collecting these signatures by duping people into thinking they were signing a petition to allow wine to be sold at grocery stores, the motivation being that they are paid a certain amount for each signature. One of these signature collectors was Angela McElroy, who turned whistle-blower and alerted KTN that the sub-contractor she worked for (Young Political Majors aka YPM) were actually teaching their employees how to fool people into giving their signature which she demonstrated for a Fox25 Investigative News Report. There was a special meeting of the Election Committee at the State House where KTN and others were called to testify. "Kris Mineau, spokesman for the petition sponsors, claimed that the fraud allegations were nothing more than the result of a conspiracy by "ho-mo-sexual activists" and admitted that his organization has made no effort to check into the allegations of fraud by monitoring what is going on in the field." -KTN October 19, 2005
From a March 2006 article in the Advocate we learn:
Prosecutors from Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly's office have launched a criminal investigation to determine whether workers gathering support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage forged the signatures of some voters last year. "Because some of these concerns raised allege the crime of forgery, these allegations were referred to our criminal bureau," assistant attorney general Stephanie Lovell said in a letter to secretary of state William Galvin dated Tuesday.
When I tried to follow up on this investigation here is what I was told:
Mr. Hosty, There is no investigation at the present time because the opponents of same-sex marriage apparently gathered more than enough signatures to move their cause along through the Secretary of State's office for certification, and on to the legislature, as we have seen recently. At the time of the investigation there were no laws on the books to prosecute individuals fraudulently collecting signatures, though there are laws governing such practices now. Sincerely, Investigator N. Paras (Dated July 23, 2007)
Since 2005 there have been other accusations of fraud in other states filed. One such complaint against another sub-contracting company that worked on the Anti-gay marriage petition here in Massachusetts under Arno Political Consultants is an example, like this one in Michigan. Could all these instances be a coincidence?
Recent developments make one wonder how effective the art of deception was here in Massachusetts when the same group was allegedly defrauding our citizens, but we have no investigation from the Attorney General to gain any understanding from. Here is what the LA Times found when they investigated YPM in this newest instance:
The Times randomly interviewed 46 of the hundreds of voters whose election records show they were recently re-registered as Republicans by YPM, and 37 of them -- more than 80% -- said that they were misled into making the change or that it was done without their knowledge.
If 80% of all signatures on the Anti-Gay Marriage petition were fraudulent we would not have had to mire ourselves in a divisive two year battle for equality, and the eventual outcome would have been the same. If only the investigation had been conducted perhaps we would have undercovered similar fraud and this instance would not have cost us so much. Perhaps Californians would have been more prepared for YPM's questionable tactics if we had been more vigilant when we had the opportunity.
It may not be too late to revisit our own criminal investigation and hold responsible parties accountable for the wrongs they've done here. We need to ensure we are protected by law so people can't get away with deliberately misrepresenting the facts on our own future petitions. You can contact the Attorney General's Office by clicking here.