Jeepers creepers! Select Management Resources, parent company of North American Title Loans, spends $1,735,416.90, including $1,553,405.58 on deceptive petition circulating company Silver Bullet, to trick South Dakotans into placing their fake 18% rate cap amendment on the 2016 ballot. What’s a believer in the integrity of petitions and the ballot initiative process going to do?
Nothing big—just file a challenge to knock Amendment Usury right back off the ballot:
Affidavit Challenging Furlong Petition per SDCL 12-1-13
I, Cory Allen Heidelberger, resident and registered voter of Brown County, South Dakota, swear that the following statements are, to the best of my knowledge as of Wednesday, February 3, 2016, true and accurate. I offer these statements as a formal challenge, per South Dakota Codified Law 12-1-13, to the initiated constitutional amendment petition (“Furlong Petition”) submitted by sponsor Lisa Furlong, chair of the ballot question committee South Dakotans for Fair Lending, to the office of the South Dakota Secretary of State (“Secretary”) on November 5, 2015, and certified on January 4, 2016, for placement on the 2016 general election ballot as Constitutional Amendment U.
- On January 28 and 29, 2016, I reviewed the original Furlong Petition on file at the Secretary’s office in Pierre, South Dakota. During those two days, I reviewed a substantial portion of the approximately 4,800 sheets constituting the Furlong Petition, but I did not review every sheet.
- Each sheet bore a computer-generated number printed vertically on the right-hand side of the front or occasionally the back of the sheet. All sheet numbers herein refer to those sheet numbers generated and printed on the Furlong Petition sheets by the Secretary.
- The Secretary presented the Furlong Petition to me in two boxes: one containing the first approximately 3,500 sheets, the other containing the remaining approximately 1,300 sheets. The following observations are based on my recollection of information gathered during this visual inspection of the Furlong Petition, as well as notes and photographs taken during that inspection.
- During my review, I found the following apparent violations and other deficiencies that render the Furlong Petition invalid.
Antonio Puga III
- Antonio J. Puga III is a notary public in the State of South Dakota. According to the Secretary’s online notary database, Puga’s commission expires on October 1, 2021. Given that South Dakota notaries receive six-year commissions, Puga apparently received his commission on October 1, 2015.
- The Secretary’s online notary database lists Puga’s address as 2100 W. 41st Street, Sioux Falls. According to the most recent information available online, North American Title Loans lists that address for one of its Sioux Falls storefront locations.
- Puga notarized at least 50 Furlong Petition sheets on October 4, 2015, including sheets #3939, 3940, 3976, 3977, 4032, 4058, 4059, 4060, 4103, 4138, 4139, 4140, 4141, 4142, 4143, 4144, 4194, 4197, 4199, 4227, 4229, 4306, 4307, 4308, 4329, 4330, 4345, 4346, 4366, 4385, 4463, 4464, 4465, 4466, 4467, 4468, 4469, 4470, 4471, 4472, 4473, 4474, 4475, 4476, 4672, 4692, 4693, 4742, 4743, and 4747.
- The circulators of the 50 listed sheets notarized by Puga include Phil Olson, Rose Lehrkamp, Kimberly Lysne, Jacob Adams, Kyle Bonrud, Carrie Lape, Josh Stefani, Michael Nisbet, Rebecca Pelzel, Buck Frankmen, Gina Wiseman, Michael Beaudion, Cassandra Hoyme, Tony Anthony Day, and Craig S. Olson.
- On the sheets I reviewed, the signatures on the sheets Puga notarized on October 4, 2015, are dated after October 4.
- This evidence suggests that Puga notarized blank Furlong Petition sheets and released them to circulators who subsequently collected signatures.
- This evidence suggests that Puga misused his notary seal in support of the Furlong Petition, casting doubt on the validity of all Furlong Petition sheets notarized by Puga. All sheets notarized by Puga (including sheets on which signer and notary dates appear to be in order—for example, sheets 279, 2860, 2885, 4104, 4105, and 4694) and signatures on those sheets should be rejected.
- This evidence suggests that circulators of sheets Puga notarized on October 4, 2015, collected signatures for the Furlong Petition on sheets that already bore a notary seal. Such post-notarization collection of signatures violates the petition instructions written on each sheet and specified by South Dakota Administrative Rule 05:02:08:07. Such post-notarization signature collection also violates the requirement of South Dakota Codified Law 2-1-10 that circulators secure a notary public’s witness and seal to their signature after circulation as verification of their legitimate petitioning efforts.
- The circulators named in Paragraph 8 of this affidavit and any others who circulated sheets after Puga notarized them on October 4 appear to have violated both Administrative Rule and Codified Law in circulating the Furlong Petition, requiring the rejection of the petition sheets itemized here, the rejection of all similar sheets that those circulators may have illegally circulated, and the rejection of any other sheets submitted by those circulators as unreliable.
- Erin Ageton is a notary public in the State of South Dakota. According to the Secretary’s online notary database, Ageton’s commission expires on March 18, 2016.
- The Secretary’s online notary database lists Ageton’s address as 1212 E. 10th St. According to the most recent information available online, North American Title Loans lists that address for another of its Sioux Falls storefront locations.
- Ageton notarized numerous Furlong Petition sheets and signed as the circulator of many other Furlong Petition sheets.
- Erin Ageton signed the circulator’s oath on sheet 279.
- Sheet 279 bears 19 signatures, all dated October 12, 2015.
- On sheet 279, the address, city, date, and county on signature lines 4–8, 10–14, and 17 appear to be written in the same penmanship. This penmanship does not match the penmanship of the signatories of those lines, nor does it match the distinctive penmanship that Erin Ageton has displayed on the circulator’s line and on several other sheets (see, for example, sheet 2885) where Ageton as circulator appears to have completed signatories’ information in her own hand, with dramatically wider, more vertical letters than those appearing on the above cited lines on sheet 279.
- ARSD 5:02:08:00(3) allows the circulator to add address and date information to the petition for signers. State law and administrative rules authorize no one other than the signer or the circulator to add that information. Because neither the signers nor the circulator of sheet 279 appears to have written that information, sheet 279 circulated by Ageton is invalid.
- Ageton appears to have sworn a false oath in signing the circulator’s oath on sheet 279, an oath in which Ageton swears that “either the signer or I added the printed name, the residence address of the signer, the date of signing, and the county of voter registration.”
- Erin Ageton notarized sheet 277, which lists Richard L. Jennings as circulator. Sheet 277 bears 19 signatures, all dated October 12, 2015.
- On sheet 277, lines 2–7 and 9–20 show address, city, date, and county for each signatory entered in distinctive, wide-lettered, vertical penmanship that looks nothing like the penmanship of the signatories or of the circulator but which closely matches the penmanship of the individual who notarized sheet 277, Erin Ageton.
- This evidence suggests that Erin Ageton notarized the circulator’s oath signed by Richard L. Jennings knowing that it was false—i.e., knowing that neither the signers nor Jennings had “added the printed name, the residence address of the signer, the date of singing, and the county of voter registration” and had either already entered that information herself or intended to do so after notarizing sheet 277.
- A similar pattern appears on sheets 368, 509, and 3861: Richard L. Jennings signs as circulator, Erin Ageton notarizes, but multiple signers’ addresses, towns, dates of signing, and counties of registration are written in Ageton’s penmanship, not in the signers’ or the sworn circulator’s.
- Erin Ageton notarized sheets 480, 3724, 3725, and 3726 for circulator Michael Jones.
- Lines 1–9 of sheets 480, lines 1–9 and 14–20 of sheet 3724, lines 1–11 and 13-20 of sheet 3725, and lines 1–20 of 3726 show signer information entered in consistent penmanship that matches neither the signers’ penmanship nor that of the sworn circulator Michael Jones.
- Erin Ageton notarized sheet 2439 for circulator Brad Austin.
- Lines 8–9 of sheet 2439 show signer information entered in consistent penmanship that matches neither the signers’ penmanship nor that of the sworn circulator Brad Austin.
- Erin Ageton notarized sheet 2438 for circulator Laine Derry.
- Lines 1–2 of sheet 2438 show signer information entered in consistent penmanship that matches neither the signers’ penmanship nor that of the sworn circulator Laine Derry.
- Erin Ageton’s notary seal thus appears on multiple sheets from multiple circulators that show evidence of violation of the circulator’s oath.
- Erin Ageton’s failure to follow petition rules and her failure to ensure the integrity of her notary seal require the rejection of all signatures on the above-listed sheets, as well as the rejection of all other sheets bearing Erin Ageton’s name as circulator or notary public as unreliable.
- Gary Robinson circulated and submitted numerous sheets of the Furlong Petition.
- Sheet 4081 bears Robinson’s name as circulator.
- On sheet 4081, the address, city, date, and county on signature lines 1–7 and 9–12 appear to be written in the same penmanship. This penmanship does not match the penmanship of the signatories of those lines, nor does it match the penmanship exhibited on the ciruclator’s line by Gary Robinson.
- Again, according to ARSD 5:02:08:00(3), because neither the signers nor the circulator of sheet 4081 appear to have written the information about the specified signers, those signature lines on sheet 4081 are invalid.
Zach Conner/Edward King
- The name Zach Conner appears on the line marked “Print name of the circulator” on several Furlong Petition sheets notarized by Traci A. Scholl, including sheets 3749, 3760, 3766–3768, 3770–3774, and 3801–3811. This circulator name was accompanied by at least two different addresses on different sheets: 1210 S Cathy St (possibly 1270) and 500 S Kiwanis Ave (the latter address accompanied once by “Apt 317”).
- Every sheet that I reviewed that listed Zach Conner as the circulator bore in the “Signature of Circulator” blank a signature that appeared to read “Edward King.”
- This mismatch of circulator name and signature makes it impossible to determine who actually circulated those sheets and thus invalidates all signatures on sheets bearing the name of Zach Conner and signature of Edward King as circulator.
Supporting Evidence from Glodt Petition
- Following my review of the Furlong Petition, I reviewed the original initiated constitutional amendment petition submitted by Jason Glodt (“Glodt Petition”) to the Secretary on November 3, 2015, and certified by the Secretary on December 21, 2015. I reviewed the Glodt Petition at the Secretary’s office in Pierre, South Dakota. I reviewed a substantial portion of the approximately 6,400 sheets constituting the Glodt Petition, but I did not review every sheet.
- As with the Furlong Petition, each sheet of the Glodt Petition bore a computer-generated number printed vertically on the right-hand side of the front or occasionally the back of the sheet. All sheet numbers herein refer to those sheet numbers generated and printed on the Glodt Petition sheets by the Secretary.
- A majority of the circulators and notaries public on the Glodt Petition sheets that I reviewed also appeared as circulators and notaries public on the Furlong Petition sheets. (For example, see Glodt Petition sheet 5178, circulated by Erin Ageton, notarized by Antonio Puga III.) This observation conforms to published media reports from 2015 indicating that circulators were frequently collecting signatures for the Glodt Petition and the Furlong Petition simultaneously.
- Many Glodt Petition sheets evidence the same sorts of violations documented above on the Furlong Petition. For example:
- The Zach Conner/Edward King mismatch, circulator printed name not matching circulator signature, appears on at least 44 Glodt Petition sheets (between 1511 to 5726, inclusive).
- The Gary Robinson anomaly of penmanship of signer information not matching the penmanship of the signers or the circulator, appears on at least 63 Glodt Petition sheets (between 82 to 1589, inclusive) bearing Gary Robinson’s signature as circulator.
- A similar penmanship mismatch appears on at least 37 Glodt Petition sheets (between 169 to 2156, inclusive) bearing the signature of Gina Wiseman as circulator. Gina Wiseman also signed numerous Furlong Petition sheets as circulator.
- A similar penmanship mismatch appears on at least 27 Glodt Petition sheets (between 77 and 1556, inclusive) bearing the signature of Monte Hunter as circulator. Monte Hunter also signed numerous Furlong Petition sheets as circulator.
- A similar penmanship mismatch appears on at least one Glodt Petition sheet (1108) bearing the signature of Rose Anna Lehrkamp as circulator. Rose Anna Lehrkamp also signed numerous Furlong Petition sheets as circulator.
- A similar penmanship mismatch appears on at least 7 Glodt Petition sheets (1441–1444, 1446–1448) bearing the signature of Jacob Adams as circulator. For example, Glodt Petition sheets 1442 (all signatures dated Octboer 30, 2015), 1443 (all signatures dated November 1, 2015), and 1444 (all signatures dated October 31, 2015) each have ten signatures with residence, town, date, and county all entered in the same penmanship. Each sheet has its own distinct penmanship, but that penmanship differs among sheets 1442, 1443, and 1444, suggesting that each sheet was completed by a different person with distinct penmanship. Jacob Adams’s penmanship may indeed match the penmanship exhibited on one of those sheets, but Jacob Adams’s penmanship cannot match all three styles exhibited on these sheets. Jacob Adams also signed numerous Furlong Petition sheets as circulator.
- The circulator’s oath exists to provide accountability in the petition process, to deter individuals from breaking the law to access the ballot. For instance, accurate completion of the oath makes it possible to verify that circulators are not sex offenders (SDCL 12-1-32) and that they are adult residents of South Dakota (SDCL 12-1-3).
- The mismatches in penmanship identified above cast doubt on who actually circulated each petition sheet and thus make it impossible to verify that the actual circulator was legally qualified to circulate a petition in South Dakota and followed all laws while circulating.
- The prevalence of obvious violations on the Glodt Petition, coupled with the substantial number of Glodt Petition circulators who also circulated the Furlong Petition, casts the reliability of circulator information on Furlong Petition sheets and the legitimacy of the entire Furlong Petition into even greater doubt.
- Because the violations outlined above indicate not mere random error but a pattern of deliberate, systematic violation of petition rules to gain access to the ballot, threatening the integrity of petitions, notary seals, ballots, and the electoral process; and,
- Because erosion of public trust in the integrity of the petition process specifically undermines the ability of the people of South Dakota to exercise via initiative and referendum the legislative power guaranteed them by Article 3, Section 1 of the South Dakota Constitution; and,
- Because the Secretary of State has a duty to nurture and maintain the public trust in the integrity of petitions, notary seals, ballots, and the electoral process,
- I hereby request that the Secretary of State take the following actions:
- Suspend the certification of Lisa Furlong’s initiated constitutional amendment Petition;
- Review all sheets and signature lines in the Furlong Petition to verify the above documented violations of petition rule, notary rules, and state law and identify further violations on other sheets not enumerated herein;
- Disqualify all deficient signatures and sheets identified herein and any other deficient signatures and sheets that the Secretary’s scrutiny of the Furlong Petition may uncover;
- Remove Antonio Puga III and Erin Ageton from the office of notary public for their failure to “faithfully and impartially perform the duties of a NOTARY PUBLIC within and for the State of South Dakota according to the law” as specified by the notary public oath (ARSD 5:04:03:01); and,
- Forward this affidavit to the South Dakota Attorney General and the States Attorneys of those counties in which the enumerated petition violations appear to have been committed and request that those officials investigate the evidence outlined herein and the Furlong Petition in full for violations of state law pertaining to petitions, elections, and the integrity of the notary seal.
[links and photo added for online version; Cory Allen Heidelberger, affidavit, submitted to South Dakota Secretary of State, 2016.02.03]
I haven’t officially tallied up what it cost to compose this petition challenge… but I’m pretty sure it was less than $1.7 million.