UPDATE: Butch Morgan, three others charged in ballot petition case

Former St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chairman Butch Morgan and three voter registration workers have been indicted on counts of fraud, forgery, and official misconduct.

The charges come after an investigation into the submission of petitions that allegedly contained forged signatures of voters during the 2008 Indiana presidential primary.

Morgan was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit petition fraud and two felony counts of conspiracy to commit forgery.

62-year-old Pam Brunette of South Bend was charged with two counts each of forgery, official misconduct, and falsely making a petition of nomination.

Dustin Blythe and Beverly D. Shelton were also charged with forgery and falsely making a petition of nomination.

They were all booked into the St. Joseph County Jail Monday afternoon and bonded out.

Mishawaka resident Rene DeBeck was one of at least dozens of voters whose name was forged on one of the petitions.

“I wasn’t angry, but I was rather perplexed,” DeBeck said. “And, of course, it didn’t really bother me until the following day when some of my neighbors and friends said, ‘What the hell did you do? Did you sell your vote?’”

According to charging documents, Morgan instructed Brunette, Blythe and Shelton to forge signatures on petitions and they all agreed to do so.

Morgan gave them gubernatorial ballots to use as templates.
County Republicans say forging the ballots was pure laziness because Democrats could have easily gotten the signatures they needed by going to the mall and asking people to sign.

“These people have let down the citizens of St. Joseph County and the whole voting process,” St. Joseph County Republican Chair Deb Fleming said at a press conference Monday night. “There has been for years a culture of corruption. These indictments are only the first step in the process and I expect it to be taken seriously by all that are involved.”

Fleming says evidence of more corruption in the St. Joseph County Democratic Party could surface as state police continue their investigation.

But in a statement Monday night, St. Joseph County Democrats Chair John Broden said, “When I took this position in October 2011, my first act as county chair was to replace the director of voter registration in St. Joseph County and to cooperate fully with this investigation into these serious charges. Following today’s announcement, Pamela Brunette and Beverly Shelton are no longer employees of the office. We remain committed to the integrity of the electoral process and will take every step necessary to keep the trust of local voters.”

Morgan resigned from his political positions in October shortly after the investigation began, but at that time denied any wrongdoing.

He didn’t want to comment on the situation Monday night and the three other people accused in the fraud case couldn’t be reached.

All four will appear in court Tuesday at 1 p.m.

DeBeck says he hopes those who are guilty will be brought to justice.

“I'll be vindicated and the neighbors will stop picking on me,” he said.

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