(Oct. 13) -- Federal, state, and local officials are gathering information about allegations of voter registration fraud that were first raised Channel 8 Eyewitness News.
An employee of a private voter registration firm alleges that his bosses trashed registration forms filled out by Democratic voters because they only wanted to sign up Republican voters.
The allegations have set off a political firestorm stretching from Las Vegas to Washington D.C., and beyond.
As with everything else in this election year, it's now become a political football being tossed between the two parties, with charges and countercharges, but at its core, there still remains the matter of registration forms that were ripped up and tossed in the trash.
Who did it, and why? That's what official agencies will try to determine. On Tuesday afternoon, Las Vegan Eric Russell and his girlfriend took a packet of documents to the Las Vegas FBI office but left before filing a formal complaint about what Russell says was a deliberate effort to disenfranchise local voters.
Russell worked for a company called Voters Outreach of America, along with 300 other people. He says he got into a beef with the company over a pay dispute, and witnessed his bosses ripping up registration forms that had been filed by democrats.
"They were thrown away in the trash. I grabbed them out," said Eric Russell. One of those forms belonged to Daren Gray, who was shocked to learn that the re-registration form he filled out was never turned in.
"I'm pretty mad, upset. I'm still gonna vote," said Daren Gray. Russell doesn't know how many democratic registrations were tossed in the trash but guesses the number could be very high since Voters Outreach of America operated in Las Vegas for more than two months.
The FBI confirms that it is gathering information about the case but stopped short of calling it an investigation, saying it wants to talk to Russell again. Secretary of State Dean Heller issued a statement that his office is also taking a look, trying to figure out what if any laws might have been violated.
Nevada Democrats came out swinging Wednesday. "Most disturbing is that Voter Outreach of America is being paid by the National Republican Party and we ask how can people have faith in government if a national party is involved in trickery in depriving people the right to vote," said Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates.
The Republican National Committee acknowledges that it hired Voters Outreach of America to register voters, but in a statement said it had zero tolerance for any kind of fraud.
Local party officials said there is no way the GOP would instruct the company to trash democratic registrations. However, similar problems have been alleged elsewhere. In Washoe County, the registrar says he too has turned over information to the FBI about Republican backed registration efforts.
In Oregon, the same company that was operating here has been criticized for its tactics in signing up voters. There, it used the name America Votes, which is actually the name of a Democratic organization.
Employees in Las Vegas say they too were told that the name of the company was America Votes. "They confused us with the name. They told us one thing and told the temp force something else. They told us America Votes," Russell said.
So, why has this company used the name of a Democratic organization as it signs up voters here and in Oregon? It's a question Eyewitness News is investigating.
In the meantime, Eric Russell is about to learn what it's like to stir the pot. He has already been attacked in other media accounts as a disgruntled employee who was fired and displayed a violent temper.
Russell was a disgruntled employee. He admits that if he had been paid, he probably wouldn't have talked. Even so, discrediting him doesn't explain the existence of the trashed registration forms.
Call the Clark County Election Department at 455-VOTE or click here to see if you are registered.
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