At least 133 residents of a state Senate district there have filed formal complaints with the state, saying they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge.

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
September 29, 2012, 6:31 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Aggressive recruitment efforts in one of California’s most hotly contested voting districts has created a surge of newly minted Republicans like Marleny Reyes. Except she had no intention of joining the GOP.

The Moreno Valley College student is among scores of voters in Riverside County who say they were duped.

Formal complaints filed with the state by at least 133 residents of a state Senate district there say they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge, calling into question the party’s boast that Republican membership has rocketed 23% in the battleground area.

More than 27,700 residents of the legislative district have become Republicans since January, according to the California secretary of state’s office — erasing a registration edge long held by Democrats.

The complaints have also shined a light on the political committee behind the registration drive, Golden State Voter Participation Project, and its biggest donor, wealthy GOP activist Charles Munger Jr. Other donors include the California Apartment Assn., Farmers Group Inc. and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America.

The problem has also raised anew the question of whether the state should ban firms that pay workers for each voter they register or signature they secure on a petition rather than paying them an hourly rate. Workers have an incentive to cut corners under such arrangements, according to Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Natomas), who has proposed barring the practice in a bill that is on the governor’s desk.

Democrats say bogus registrations are more than just an issue of workers trying to make an extra buck — that they’re a trick to prevent the Democratic party from getting supporters to the polls as well as to draw more money to the area’s Republican races. A statewide Democratic group gathered the complaints and filed them with the secretary of state’s investigators.

A local Democratic group, the Riverside County Progressive Political Action Committee, alleged in a letter to county officials that the GOP registration drive there was “an overt and pervasive voter registration fraud effort.”

Many of those who were registered said they signed documents they thought were petitions for ballot measures to legalize marijuana or create jobs in California. Reyes said she was told that for her signature to be counted she would also have to fill out a registration form.

She did so, without checking a box for a political party because she was already registered as a Democrat. She was surprised to receive a notice in the mail later saying she had been registered as a Republican.

“It’s really disturbing,” said the 20-year-old criminal justice major, who has since re-registered as a Democrat.

The controversy has spilled into the Senate race between Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona) and Democratic candidate Richard Roth, an attorney. The district they’re battling for is one of four that both major parties believe could help Democrats win a supermajority in the upper house.

Democrats have cited the voter complaints in criticizing Miller, who has touted the registration surge as “a reflection of the hard work my campaign has put into communicating with voters.”

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