PROVIDENCE — The Jamestown Board of Canvassers on Monday asked the police to investigate nomination signatures — including the names of dead people — submitted on behalf of Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, a Democrat running for the First Congressional District seat, the Globe has confirmed.
The Globe obtained a copy of a Matos nomination sheet containing 17 signatures, and Board of Canvassers member Ken Newman confirmed that the signatures include the names of four or five dead people, in addition to people who are alive but that say they never signed that document.
For example, the document includes the signatures of Gladys and Fred Geib, who are listed as residents of the same address on Battery Lane in Jamestown. But obituaries show that Gladys Geib died in June 2012, and her husband, Frederick J. Geib, died in March 2002.
“Those people are dead, and one has been dead for 21 years,” Newman said. “I knew some of the people on the list who had moved away and are no longer registered in Jamestown.”
Only three or four people of the 17 are still registered Jamestown voters, Newman said. The canvassing clerk contacted people on the list and determined that none of them had actually signed the document, he said.
Newman said the handwriting for all the signatures “looks the same,” except for the last name on the list.
Candidates needed to submit at least 500 signatures by the July 14 deadline to qualify for the ballot, and the Matos campaign has submitted at least 644 signatures that had been verified by local boards of canvassers, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“It’s a troubling thing because this is a very close race, and it’s a complicated thing to get 500 signatures,” Newman said. “And with this many candidates, we went through all the candidate signatures today from all over the state. For what it’s worth, I think it would be helpful in circumstances like that if the Board of Elections would contact other canvassing clerks and look out for other nominating papers submitted by the same person.”
The nomination paper includes an affidavit signed by Holly McClaren, of Providence, on July 12. But Newman said the board was told that an unidentified man dropped off the paper and not McClaren. McClaren could not be reached immediately for comment.
The document was notarized by Evan England, who was attesting that McClaren signed the nomination paper. England, who has served as spokesman for the Matos campaign, declined to comment.
Matos’ campaign manager, Brexton Isaacs, issued a statement, saying, “We hold all our staff and volunteers to the highest ethical standards. That is why these reports are both surprising and concerning. We want to thank the boards of canvassers across the state for the valuable work they are doing.”
The Jamestown Board of Canvassers met on Monday morning, and the agenda included an item titled ”possible fraudulent nomination papers.”
On Monday afternoon, Jamestown’s interim police chief, Angela Deneault, issued a statement, saying: “On July 12, 2023, nomination papers for a campaign for Congress were submitted to the Jamestown Board of Canvassers. Upon review by the canvassing clerk, several discrepancies were discovered with the voter names and signatures that appeared on the form which led the clerk to file a report with the Jamestown Police Department.
The Jamestown Police Department has begun its investigation, and more information “will be made available at a later date,” Deneault said.
Other Democratic congressional candidates weighed in on news of the investigation.
A spokesperson for former state Representative J. Aaron Regunberg, of Providence, said, “This is a serious concern that erodes public faith in campaigns and elected officials. We believe there should be accountability for these potentially fraudulent petitions in order to bring more transparency and less corruption to Rhode Island politics.”
Donald Carlson, a renewable energy investor living in Jamestown, tweeted, “As a Jamestown voter, I am stunned that @LGSabinaMatos submitted fraudulent nomination papers. We should all be deeply concerned by this betrayal of the electoral process.”
Gabe Amo, a former White House aide living in Providence, issued a statement calling news of the probe “a disturbing development” in the Matos campaign. “I urge boards of canvassers across the First District to thoroughly investigate the signatures submitted by the Matos campaign,” he said. “Election fraud is a serious violation of the public trust and should be grounds for disqualification from seeking public office.”
Senator Sandra Cano, a Pawtucket Democrat, tweeted, “These allegations of fraud are incredibly serious. Voting and elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and any attempts to do an end run around election laws must be held up to the highest levels of scrutiny.”
Former Naval intelligence officer Walter Berbrick, a Middletown Democrat, issued a statement, saying, “Free and fair elections are the foundation of every healthy democracy. I trust the local Board of Canvassers will perform their due diligence to find the truth, hold those accountable, and uphold the integrity of this election for the people of Rhode Island’s First District.”
And Stephanie Beauté, a North Smithfield Democrat, called for the allegations “serious,” saying, “I urge Sabina Matos to prioritize the interests of Rhode Island and its citizens and step down from this election.”
This is the second year in a row that Jamestown has investigated the validity of nomination signatures. Last year, two 18-year-olds were accused of faking signatures on nomination papers for Zachary Hurwitz, an 18-year-old University of Rhode Island student who was running for governor as an independent.
Updated with response from Matos campaign manager Brexton Isaacs and reaction from other Democratic candidates.