The Orange County Register reports that since mid-March, California election officials have received at least 99 written complaints from people who say they were registered to vote as Republicans without their consent. The Register found another 74 voters who said that they were duped or coerced into registering to vote as Republicans. The complaints were filed after paid petitioners canvassed discount store parking lots and community college campuses in March asking passers-by to sign petitions for causes like legalizing marijuana, fighting cancer or cleaning up beaches. The Register called 348 registered Republicans in Orange County and reached 90 of them. Of those, only 16 said they wanted to be Republicans. The rest said they were coerced into signing by fast-talking petitioners, some of whom offered people free sunglasses if they signed. The California Republican party has a controversial policy of paying signature gatherers up to $8.00 apiece for sending in new GOP voter registration cards in that district. The signers in the current case all lived in the 34th State Senate District in Central Orange County, where Republicans are hoping to oust a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 election. In 2006, the Register uncovered a similar pattern of fraud in the county that was attributed in part to the bounty the GOP pays to signature gatherers. In that incident, 167 voters complained that they were switched to Republican affiliation without their permission, and the Register found another 112 voters who claimed they were tricked. Eleven signature-gatherers in that case were eventually convicted of falsifying voter registrations and other charges. Of the eleven, eight went to jail.
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