Fraud being claimed in Montana's I-161 initiative

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June 25, 2010

HELENA, Montana:

The I-161 initiative may be in trouble, according to supporters of the initiative. According to Kurt Kephart, who organized the initiative, fraudulent signatures were turned in by a petitioner. The petitioner, who is not named by Kephart, was hired by a temp agency that Kephart paid to hire signature gatherers. Kephart was nervous that the discovery could keep the measure off of the ballot. According to Kephart, "It only takes one apple to ruin the whole barrel. I’m sick to my stomach...I’m sure it’s an election fraud. I want him prosecuted."

The signatures were submitted to Cascade County by the unnamed man, and Candy Sonsteng, a Cascade County election official, then turned in those signatures to the Cascade County Attorney's office. Kephart then informed the media, citing a need to be honest in order to salvage the validity of his group's efforts: "If you’re not honest about a problem in your back yard, then the whole thing is going to be suspect...We were very close to making this thing. Now, even if we barely make the district numbers and the numbers of signatures, it’s suspect. The whole thing is thrown into question." The maximum penalty for the offense of knowningly turning in false signatures is a $500 fine and six months in jail.[1]

I-161 would increase nonresident big game license fees and abolishes outfitter-sponsored licenses.

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