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Ballot petitions allowed at trial

– Ballot petitions can be used as evidence against a former Democratic Party chairman and three county voter registration workers accused of forging signatures to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Indiana’s 2008 presidential primary ballot, a judge has ruled.

St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chairman Buck Morgan and the three former Democratic voter registration workers – Dustin Blythe, Pam Brunette and Bev Shelton – face multiple charges related to the alleged forgery of signatures, including that of former Gov. Joe Kernan, on the petitions.

Morgan is accused of ordering the workers to forge signatures on the ballot petitions. His attorney and attorneys for the three others had sought to have the petitions thrown out as evidence in their cases.

Blythe’s attorney, Jeff Kimmell, filed a motion claiming the county’s voter registration office did not keep track of petitions once they were submitted.

“We had some questions about whether these things should be admissible because of the way they were handled,” Kimmell said.

But WSBT-TV reports that St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha disagreed, ruling Monday that all of the signatures will be allowed at trial.

He also ruled that the four defendants’ cases will be combined into a single trial scheduled for April 22.

Morgan is charged with conspiracy to commit petition fraud and conspiracy to commit forgery. Brunette faces charges of forgery, falsely making a petition of nomination and official misconduct, while Blythe and Shelton are charged with forgery and falsely making a petition of nomination.

Indiana law requires candidates for president, senator and governor to submit ballot petitions signed by at least 500 registered voters in each of the state’s congressional districts to qualify for the statewide primary ballot.