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A Rapid City man is the first to face criminal charges in the voter fraud investigation in South Dakota. His case is one where signatures just didn't match up. 45 year old Lyle Nichols of Rapid City has been arrested, and is facing forgery charges for 5 fraudulent voter registration cards. Nichols could go to prison for up to 25 years.
It's the Pennington County Auditor's job to follow the paper trail for election forms. When workers noticed several forms that didn't add up, they called the Sheriff's office.
Ricky Hockley registered to vote in 1999, that's when the auditor's office received his form. Mysteriously, a second one with Hockley's name showed up at the auditor's office recently. But it listed Mr. Hockley's wife's name as his middle name. Officials say Lyle Nichols submitted the card, which also had a different birthday and signature that didn't match the first form.
Don Holloway, Pennington County Sheriff, says, "It looks like what he was doing was pulling names out of the phone book or newspaper. There was at least 2 people that were diseased."
In a press conference today, Holloway said the motivation behind the fraudulent forms clearly wasn't to stuff the ballot boxes, but to make money. The Native American Voter Registration Project paid Lyle Nichols $3 for every form he returned.
Don says, "I think this is an illustration of what happens when you start paying people to register voters."
The Democratic party is also paying private contractors to register voters. But Deputy Attorney General Larry Long can't say how many people are under investigation for turning in false forms. But he does admit that at least 10 counties are under the looking glass.
Long says, "All I can tell you is that the DCI and the feds I think are moving on that investigation literally as fast as they can to attempt to get resolution of that case in advance of the election."
Officials say Nichols actually turned in 226 voter registration cards, and majority of them were fraudulent. But they're only charging him with five forgery counts, because those forms make the strongest case against Nichols.
Sheriff Holloway says the Native American group Nichols was working for cooperated fully in the investigation.
The Democratic party confirms that they employed Nichols for four hours to distribute literature. During that time, he signed up four new voters, and was paid 35 dollars by the Democratic party. Tonight, the Pennington County auditor says she has found no problems with voter registration cards turned in by the Democratic party.
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