The Rhode Island Board of Elections said Tuesday that its review of nomination signatures submitted by the congressional campaign of Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos found “no obvious pattern of fraud,” but will continue to investigate to protect the integrity of the democratic process.
The review was conducted after election officials in three communities in the 1st Congressional District asked local police departments to investigate suspected fraudulent signatures on nomination papers submitted by the Matos campaign. The state attorney general and state police then got involved in the investigation.
The nomination papers allegedly included the names of dead people and some from people who said their names were forged.
Despite the alleged fraud, the board confirmed that Matos’s campaign had collected more than enough voter signatures to qualify for the Sept. 5 primary ballot to seek the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed former Rep. David Cicilline.
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Cicilline stepped down earlier this summer to become the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.
The board voted to continue investigating and will issue subpoenas to all of the people who collected signatures for Matos, but not until after the primary so as not to influence the outcome of the special election.
“Continuing on this parallel path to the attorney general will lead to some chaos in election,” Board Vice Chairman David Sholes said, noting that early voting begins Wednesday.
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Matos, one of a dozen Democrats running to replace Cicilline, blamed the questionable signatures on an outside vendor hired by her campaign.
“The Board of Elections has affirmed what my campaign has said all along and what the Secretary of State previously found: despite being the victim of a vendor who lied to my campaign, we submitted more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Matos said in a statement Tuesday.
Matos was the presumed front-runner and her Democratic opponents used the scandal to attack her.
“It is unfortunate that the guys who are running against me have used this as an opportunity to attempt to smear my reputation and call into question our democratic process,” she said.
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Matos’ campaign has said it is cooperating with the attorney general’s investigation. A spokesperson for the attorney general said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing.
Attorney General Peter Neronha has said his office would examine the nomination forms the Matos campaign submitted in every municipality in the district.