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Six charged for forged signatures to get Republican on 2022 primary ballot

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Six people were charged for allegedly submitting a petition with forged signatures to get a candidate on the 2022 Republican primary ballot for Colorado's 7th Congressional District.

Grassfire, LLC, an Oregon-based firm that obtains signatures to get candidates on ballots, was hired by the Carl Andersen for Congress campaign, according to court documents. Andersen needed 1,500 valid signatures to be placed on the Republican primary ballot. Six individuals employed by Grassfire – Alex Joseph, Terris Kintchen, Patrick Rimpel, Jordahni Rimpel, Aliyah Moss, and Diana Watt – signed affidavits affirming the gathered signatures were from registered voters who signed the petition in their presence.

Democrat Brittany Pettersen defeated Republican Erik Aadland with 56 percent of the vote in the November 2022 general election to represent the 7th Congressional District.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold received and rejected Andersen's petition due to an insufficient number of valid voter signatures. During an internal screening process, the secretary of state’s office detected an unusually high number of signatures that didn’t match the signature in voter files.

The secretary of state also found the petitions contained signatures of 21 deceased voters, according to court documents. The office verified the alleged violation by obtaining death certificates of the individuals with signatures on the petitions, including a man’s signature who moved to Texas and died before the date of their signature on the petition.

“Colorado’s best-in-class election system depends on individuals playing by the rules and acting with integrity,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement announcing the charges on Tuesday. “When candidates, their agents, or others in the process are deceitful and break the rules, they must be held accountable. We will continue to take such cases serious and take action when the evidence so warrants.”

The owners of Grassfire told law enforcement investigators they weren’t aware of the actions of the circulators they hired and didn’t authorize the actions. No charges of violations of Colorado law were filed against Grassfire, its owners, nor Andersen.

The six were charged with one count of attempting to influence a public servant, a class four felony, and one count of perjury, a class two misdemeanor. Class four felony convictions bring a prison sentence of two to six years and a fine between $2,000 and $500,000; class two misdemeanors carry prison sentences between three months and one year or a fine of between $250 to $1,000, or both, according to the Colorado Crime Classification Guide.

Senate Bill 23-276 was passed and signed into law earlier this month to increase penalties against petition circulator companies that knowingly allow those obtaining signatures to engage in fraud and tighten requirements for companies to obtain a license from the state to engage in petition circulation.