“Hey, Buddy, wanna smoke and a Washington?” So said three men repeatedly to residents of Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row while they purchased signatures for a referendum to overturn a recently enacted law. Handing out $1 and often less, or just offering a smoke or a sandwich, paid circulators discovered what they should have already known: Voter fraud is illegal.
Los Angeles Police Department Captain Marc Reina tweeted that his RESET officers arrested three people for election code fraud and booked them on felony charges.
Yet another arrest by your @LAPD_RESET officers for Election Code Fraud. Three people booked on Felony charges. Homeless individuals were getting paid $1.00 or less for a forged signature on a State ballot measure. #VoterFraud #SkidRow pic.twitter.com/uulOo1XsNv
— Captain Marc Reina (@LAPDMarcReina) September 22, 2018
RESET is the hard-sounding acronym for LAPD’s Resources Enhancement Services Enforcement Team that “Protects & Serves the Skid Row” neighborhood.
What Did They Do?
The referendum in circulation, now under intense scrutiny by election officials, would remove the 2018 law that replaced California’s money bail system with one granting pretrial release based on the individual detainees’ risk of committing a violent crime.
And these recent arrests are not the first incident, but sadly, a buck and a gasper for a homeless person can be much more of an incentive than tickets and arrests are deterrents.
In March, another questionable occurrence caught the eye of LAPD’s RESET officers: Tables were set up and loaded with clipboards, and money was exchanged between well-dressed people and Skid Rowers. As it turns out, that was another instance of election fraud.
LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar, a department spokesperson, told a local NBC news affiliate, “This is voter fraud, which we talk about, and we know it exists, but it isn’t exactly something that patrol officers deal with.”
She explained that several men were observed asking people on the street to sign various political forms. “They were petitions, and so they’d have them sign that petition as a fictitious person and they’d receive minimal compensation for that signature.”
In addition to these men who allegedly offered money for forged signatures, a man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of self-signing petitions using false names.
Oh, It Happens
As heinous as one might believe this act of fraud against the electorate process in America is, the disappointing news is that it happens all the time. Republicans, Democrats, and every special cause has at one time or another resorted to fudging signatures of voters – with both candidates and voters often unaware of the fraudulent activity.
That’s not to infer that the practice is acceptable, or that it should not be met with severe consequences. And LAPD officer Deon Joseph, who patrols Skid Row, has had enough of the lawbreakers having election fraud felonies reduced to misdemeanors by state authorities:
“It sends the message that it’s not a big deal and as a result these guys come back. It may not be the biggest deal to the average person out there. But this is an assault on our democracy.”
It has incensed Joseph to the point he is watching his department to ensure they have consensus with the District Attorney that these are and should remain felony charges.
Good Luck with That
Since the late 1880s, due to demand of residential style rooming houses, Skid Row has been a congregating point for those on the fringes of contemporary society. Demographically, according to the 2010 US Census, the neighborhood consists of 17,000 sheltered and unsheltered people, including 12% White, 62% African American, 1% Native American, 1% Asian, and 21% Hispanic.
After decades of attempts to eradicate the problem of homelessness by elected officials, a court battle ensued with the City of Los Angeles and five homeless residents of the neighborhood. Los Angeles lost the landmark case, and decriminalizing homelessness was the result. The decision in Jones v. City of Los Angeles defined the area east of Main Street, south of Third Street, west of Alameda Street, and north of Seventh Street as Skid Row.
And now, it is also voter fraud central.
Oddly, residents are proud of their neighborhood and display a painting of a green and white city limits sign – an 18-by-50-foot mural displayed at San Julian Street. “Skid Row City Limit, Population: Too Many.” Yet residents seem hesitant to leave.
Perhaps they are being well-cared for by activists. You can bet the ACLU is watching LAPD and RESET to ensure no homeless rights are infringed upon – criminal actions by both circulators and the indigent be damned.
And as sure as the sun will shine in L.A., someone will organize a protest for Skid Row residents over this issue, as they are sure to take a hit in income, free lunches, and smokes.