Los Angeles Police Department officer Deon Joseph knows his way around Skid Row. It’s been his beat for the last 20 years.
And while it’s not hard to find serious crime problems along the tent-covered sidewalks here, Joseph keyed in on one you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Skid Row.
“This is where they do most of the voter registration fraud,” he said, pointing to the sidewalk in front of the Midnight Mission. “It’s been going on for years.”
Joseph says it’s pretty common for people hired by lobbyists to set up tables outside the missions and illegally pay people for fake signatures used for various ballot measures from all across California.
“They say, ‘Hey, you wanna make a quick buck?” Joseph explained. “They can get a quarter, a dollar, a cigarette and sometimes food. But in the last few cases it’s been money.”
Those last few cases ended with arrests when LAPD sent in undercover officers on Friday armed with hidden cameras.
And sometimes the homeless are asked to forge other peoples names…
Last week, Los Angeles police arrested three people on Skid Row on felony election fraud charges after they were caught paying $1 or less to homeless people for forging signatures on a petition to get a measure on the California state ballot, Capt. Marc Reina said in a Tweet on Friday. Reina posted photos showing signature-gathering and the exchange of cash.
“They come in and they target the homeless population because they can get so many,” Reina said in a phone interview, explaining that there are hundreds and hundreds of people living on the streets. “When you see those tables and lines of people down the sidewalks it gets conspicuous, and we’re able to take action.”
The petition circulating in the neighborhood last week was in support of a proposed referendum to overturn a 2018 law that replaced California’s old money bail system with a new system granting pretrial release based on a public safety and flight risk assessment, Reina said. A proposed referendum to overturn that law was cleared to begin gathering signatures earlier this month, according to a news release from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Reina said police do not yet know if those gathering the signatures are connected with lobbying groups promoting the referendum.
He also said homeless people are sometimes asked to forge the name of more than one voter on the petitions.