Sea Party gatherer charged with signature fraud

A Fairbanks woman who claimed to have been collecting signatures for the Alaska Sea Party’s Coastal Management ballot initiative has been hit with felony forgery and perjury charges for submitting what authorities say were fake signatures.

Deborah A. Carroll, 39, faces five charges, three felonies and two misdemeanors, all in connection with submitting a petition booklet filled out with false signatures. Carroll admitted to Alaska State Troopers having filled out the petition with names taken from the phone book.

The initiative was certified for the ballot recently, and the Department of Law said none of the false signatures were counted in the certification process.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections in Alaska, credited the Alaska Sea Party, headed by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, with spotting and reporting the fraud.

“I would like to thank Mayor Bruce Botelho for bringing this fraudulent activity to the attention of my office and the Department of Law,” Treadwell said in a statement announcing the charges against Carroll.

The Alaska Sea Party used paid signature gatherers as part of its campaign to win a spot on the ballot for an initiative petition restoring a Coastal Management program for the state.

It collected nearly 30,000 signatures from more than three-quarters of the state’s election districts. Paid gatherers were used in the state’s Railbelt population centers, with volunteers handling the collections in rural areas.

Botelho said Alaska Sea Party members reviewing booklets the night they were to be submitted found one which caught their eyes.

“This one we saw looked very suspicious,” Botelho said. While the other booklets were submitted to the Elections Division for review, the suspicious booklet was provided to the Department of Law.

The department referred it to the Troopers for investigation, and they concluded there was a likely violation, leading to Monday’s criminal charges against Carroll.

Botelho praised the Department of Law, which he headed for nine years as attorney general, and elections officials for their aggressive response to the complaint.

“This kind of activity is one that should not be tolerated because it compromised the integrity of the electoral process and ultimately the right of the electorate to participate meaningfully in our democratic process,” he said.

Botelho said it appeared every, or almost every, signature in the questioned booklet was fake, and that no valid signatures were lost to the fraud.

Carroll does not appear to have an attorney yet for this case, and there is no online phone listing for her in Fairbanks.

Arraignment has been scheduled for April 13.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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