|Updated: 8/23/2012 5:40 pm
||Published: 8/23/2012 5:39 pm
Legislators say there now are big concerns over the validity of the state's signature gathering process for ballot initiatives. Hearings are underway at the capitol to find out what can be done to stop it.
When Sheffield Nelson turned in his boxes of signatures last month, he figured he was well on his way to getting his severance tax proposal on the ballot.
But the Secretary of State's office threw out more than 70% of the signatures, in some cases, obvious forgeries.
State senator Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) on Thursday discussed a proposal to deal with fraudulent petition signatures.
"We're going to have to do something because the process is now at a point which we don't have faith that things going really as they should," Rapert says.
The Committee on State Agencies & Governmental Affairs heard testimony from members of secretary of state Mark Martin’s office. Doug Matayo, deputy secretary of state, said the office isn’t able to provide a lot of specifics now on how they’re responding because two ballot initiatives are now involved in litigation pending at the state Supreme Court.
Rapert suggested three possible solutions to combat what he views as a problem including increasing criminal penalties for fraud, requiring canvassers to register with the secretary of state's office or requiring licensing for canvassing.
“Do we ban paid signature gatherers? I don't know that,” Rapert says. “But I know that what's happening is that people are coming in here without respect for the process. And they're getting people to sign, and sometimes signing themselves just so they get paid for their signatures."