Nine Los Angeles residents face criminal charges for using cash and cigarettes to entice homeless people to fraudulently sign voter registration forms or ballot initiatives, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The defendants were charged with a range of crimes, including voter fraud, registering a fictitious person, and circulating a petition with fake names.
"That's an assault on our democracy," Los Angeles Police Officer Deon Joseph told the Los Angeles Times in September.
The charges were filed against the individuals three weeks ago, and were publicly announced Tuesday.
Raising the stakes: One reason for an increase in this type of voter fraud in Los Angeles is that people can earn a higher price per signature to help qualify initiatives to get on the ballot. From the Times:
People hired to help qualify initiatives for the ballot are often paid per signature collected, typically $1 to $2, but officials said a recent slew of proposed ballot initiatives had pushed the rate as high as $6 a signature. It is illegal for the collectors, however, to pay people for signatures.
Homeless people not charged: One of the charged individuals was arrested after allegedly setting up a table outside a local mission where homeless people line up for food and shelter. A couple of others arrested at that time were homeless, but prosecutors are not charging them.
Did it impact elections? Elections officials in Los Angeles are confident that staff would be able to identify and remove forgeries by manually comparing petition signatures with those on registration forms, but the danger of potential fraud undermining confidence in elections still exists.
Los Angeles County elections chief Dean Logan told the Times he was concerned about "any activity that causes voters to lose faith in the process."
The nine people charged face up to four years and eight months in prison if convicted.