Karen Nolan says her signature is something important – something she always thinks about carefully before signing. But when she saw her name and her husband’s next to what appears to be their forged signatures on a 2008 ballot petition for Hillary Clinton, she was not happy.
“This? Abosolutely not!” Nolan told WSBT when she saw a copy of the petition Tuesday afternoon. “I write much nicer than that.”
Court documents say former St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chair Butch Morgan ordered four former party workers to use completed, valid petitions for democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Shellinger as a pattern to forge ballot petitions for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Nolan said she remembers signing Shellinger’s because she knows one of his family members. But she does not remember signing one for Obama or Clinton.
“I couldn’t imagine signing it because I never would have signed it to get Hillary on,” Nolan said.
Morgan and his attorney refused to answer questions from reporters as they left Tuesday’s arraignment in St. Joseph County’s misdemeanor court.
Former voter registration worker Beverly Shelton is accused of forging several signatures. When a reporter asked if she did anything wrong, Shelton turned away from the camera.
Former Democratic Party supervisor at St. Joseph County’s voter registration office in 2008 Pam Brunette was also in court Tuesday. She’s accused of forging ballot petition signatures and accepting and certifying forged petitions.
She told WSBT she had ‘no comment.’
The fourth person accused of petition fraud, Dustin Blythe, also worked in the voter registration office. He was arraigned via video conference because he had not posted bond and was still in jail.
Indiana State Police are still investigating. It is unclear if they will make more arrests – including another man named in the charging documents. According to court papers, former Democratic Party voter registration worker Lucas Burkett told investigators he also forged signatures. But he’s apparently the one who went to police in 2011 after the South Bend Tribune and Howey Politics broke this story.
As for Nolen, who’s been voting in elections more than 50 years, she says she wants answers and justice.
“It makes me question a lot of things,” she said.
Special Prosecutor Appointed
After leading the investigation with Indiana State Police and charging the four defendants, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to the case. Dvorak said there's a possibility he may be called as a witness but when reporters asked why, he said he couldn't elaborate without talking more about the case than he should.
“I can’t be a prosecutor in the courtroom…and be a witness at the same time,” Dvorak said.
Dvorak’s name was on the ballot petitions in 2008, but it is unclear if his name was forged.
A judge appointed former Vanderburgh, Indiana prosecuting attorney Stanley Levco as special prosecuting attorney. Levco has the ability to appoint a special deputy prosecutor.
Money to pay Levco will come from the county’s general fund, Dvorak said.