Minus suspected fakes, then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama likely fell short of the number of signatures needed to appear on the 2008 Indiana primary ballot, and it's possible his opponent, Hillary Clinton, did as well, according to information obtained by The Tribune as part of an investigation into suspected ballot petition fraud.Some may seek to minimize the impact of this revelation because Obama lost the Indiana primary as offering evidence it would have made no difference to his 2008 presidential prospects, but the reality is quite different. Indiana became a pivotal state for the Obama campaign. Unprecedented resources were spent here both during the primary and general election. Obama's campaign had to face off against the Bayh Democratic political machine, which was backing Hillary Clinton's campaign. If he had been kept off the ballot in 2008 because his campaign failed to file a sufficient number of signatures--as the Democrats attempted to keep John McCain off the ballot in 2008--it could have been a fatal blow to his campaign for the Democratic nomination. Even in losing, Obama's narrow loss to Clinton was portrayed in the media as a victory for his campaign because of how close he came to winning here and provided his statewide effort momentum going into the November general election against McCain
Trent Deckard, Democratic co-director of the state Election Division, in an e-mail Thursday told The Tribune Obama's 2008 petition for primary ballot placement in the state contained just 534 certified signatures in the 2nd Congressional District. Clinton's petition contained 704 certified signatures, he said.
Presidential candidates must collect at least 500 signatures in each of the state's nine congressional districts to appear on the statewide primary ballot in Indiana.
As reported Sunday, The Tribune, in conjunction with Howey Politics Indiana, has uncovered scores of fake signatures on both the Obama and Clinton petitions in the 2nd Congressional District and specifically St. Joseph County.
Dozens of people whose signatures appear on the Clinton petition have told The Tribune they did not sign the document, and Erich Speckin, a forensic document analyst hired by the paper and Howey Politics identified at least 19 suspected fake Obama petition pages.
Those Obama pages account for more than 100 signatures, meaning, minus the fakes, the former senator likely would not have qualified for ballot placement in the state.
Whether Clinton, a former senator and now secretary of state under Obama, would have qualified is harder to determine. The Tribune has identified 35 fake signatures on her petition in the district at this point.
That said, Speckin identified a number of suspected fake Clinton petition pages as well.
Clinton narrowly defeated Obama in the Indiana primary, and Obama won the state in his general election victory over John McCain . . .
As the Tribune has previously reported, the investigation of the case is presently in the hands of St. Joseph Co. Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, who himself was the victim of a forged signature on at least one of the Clinton petitions. State GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb, who has called for a Justice Department investigation, believes as I do that Dvorak should recuse himself from investigating the case:
Holcomb, who has called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Clinton and Obama petitions, also responded to a report that the suspected fake Obama petition pages passed through the county voter registration office on days when the Republican member of the office was out.
"The evidence currently suggests this was clearly not a clerical error or simple oversight," Holcomb said. "Multiple crimes have been committed in a brazen violation of the public trust against the people of Indiana and our electoral process." . . .Again, it remains mystifying how the media in the rest of the state and nation can continue to bury the damning discoveries made by the Tribune/Howey Political Report's investigative report into the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. How much longer can they ignore this story?
Holcomb also suggested St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak, whose office is looking into the Obama and Clinton petitions, "recuse himself from any investigation being conducted by his office."
"Believing Prosecutor Dvorak is a victim of this crime, it's essential to maintain complete impartiality in investigating this important case," he said. "Therefore he should step aside and cooperate with those assigned to the investigation."
Dvorak's name and signature appear twice on the Clinton petition. He told The Tribune one of the signatures is his but did not respond to a question about the validity of a second signature sent to him a few days later, saying the matter was now under investigation.
The state Democratic Party declined to comment on the ballot question Thursday. It did, however, question the Election Division's signature totals for Obama and Clinton in the 2nd District.