Arizona Supreme Court Allowing Candidate With Forged Signatures to Stay on Ballot

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A candidate with forged signatures on his nominating petitions won't be removed from the ballot, despite the existence of a state law against petition forgery.

Although Republican Senate candidate Toby Farmer attested to being present when these phony signatures were signed, the Arizona Supreme Court is allowing him to stay on the ballot in his primary challenge of Republican Senator Don Shooter.

Shooter tells New Times the "petition process has just been thrown out the window" with this ruling.

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Under Arizona law, candidates who forge someone else's name on their nominating petitions, or "knowingly cause" someone else to do it, are guilty of a misdemeanor and are disqualified from seeking public office for five years.

Shooter called out some of Farmer's signatures as being forged, and proved at trial that seven were indeed forged.

"He did not provide any evidence, however, as to who had forged the signatures, and he chose not to call Farmer as a witness," the Supreme Court opinion states. "Farmer, on the other hand, presented a handwriting expert who opined that Farmer had not signed the questioned signatures."

The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court's finding, that there was no evidence that Farmer knew of the forgeries -- despite his attesting to have witnessed the signings -- so Farmer wasn't removed from the ballot, as he still had enough signatures remaining to qualify.

"Well, i guess that's the way the law reads," Shooter says. "It's a tremendous loophole that needs to be taken care of."

Shooter described a hypothetical situation in which people could sit down and forge 1,000 or so signatures from a voter list, and turn them in at the last moment, leaving a small window for the opposing candidate to make a claim of forgery. Even if you were able to prove that some of those signatures were forged, they could still have enough signatures remaining to land on the ballot.

"It's just bad behavior, and bad behavior goes unpunished," Shooter said. "So what does that do? It just encourages more bad behavior."

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

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Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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