2 Ogden residents accused of forging voter signatures for ballot initiatives

Wednesday , February 28, 2018 - 1:17 PM1 comment

OGDEN — Two Ogden residents are accused of forging signatures on voter initiative petitions. 

Emma Riches, 21, and Alexander Burke, 22, have each been charged with eight counts of forgery, a third-degree felony, and eight counts of violating petition procedures, a Class A misdemeanor. 

According to a probable cause statement, both Riches and Burke worked for a company called Gather, which paid them for each valid signature they submitted to the company.

Riches and Burke were collecting signatures for the voter initiative petitions for the Utah Medical Cannabis Act and for the Direct Primary Election Act, the document says. Both Riches and Burke turned in “multiple packets” of signatures from voters.

Election clerks began to notice forged signatures on petitions submitted by Riches and Burke when the clerks compared the signatures to voter rolls, the document says. 

When interviewed, both Riches and Burke admitted they forged “numerous signatures” in the packets they submitted, the document says. 

The charging document says in the 10 packets Riches submitted there were at least 352 forged signatures. Burke submitted six packets of signatures, containing at least 120 forged signatures, the document says. 

“I’ve been asked if we really review every signature in an election or a petition,” said Weber County Clerk and Auditor Ricky Hatch in a statement Tuesday evening. “Yes, we do.”

The statement also said that county agencies “take allegations of forgery seriously” and will ensure proper procedures are being followed. Additionally, it said the alleged forgeries are contained to the two ballot initiatives. 

Riches and Burke were paid a total of $2,080.45 for collecting signatures, according to the probable cause statement. The document does not specify how much the two were paid individually. 

Neither Riches nor Burke have been arrested or booked in jail in connection to the charges. Instead, both have been issued a summons to appear in court. 

Court records indicate Riches’ initial appearance is tentatively scheduled for March 27. Burke’s initial court appearance is tentatively scheduled for April 3. Both Riches and Burke will appear in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. 

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at jscholl@standard.net or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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