Challenge to LD28 candidate’s petition signatures alleges forgery

The husband of Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, is seeking to kick independent challenger Mark Syms off the general election ballot for having insufficient signatures to qualify for the ticket.

In a complaint filed June 11 in Maricopa County Superior Court, attorneys Kory Langhofer and Joseph Kanefield listed 20 reasons for why the majority of the 2,156 signatures Syms collected must be disqualified.

Langhofer and Kanefield, who represent Robert McGee, alleged that 914 of the signatures, which Syms collected in just 10 days, according to staff at the Secretary of State’s Office, appear to be forgeries. The attorneys said after visually comparing the signatures on the nominating petitions with voter registration records, none of the 914 signatures collected bore “reasonable resemblance” to the signatures on file.

“Not only are the affected signatures void, but this apparently concerted effort among multiple circulators to manufacture a critical mass of fraudulent signatures irretrievably taints the integrity of the nomination petition as a whole and requires its invalidation,” the attorneys wrote.

Langhofer and Kanefield called the alleged forgeries “the most extensive and pervasive petition fraud scheme in recent Arizona history.”

Mark Syms
Mark Syms

The attorneys also alleged that there were several missing or illegible signatures, some signers did not list their address or a complete address, and in other instances the date the person allegedly signed the petition was missing. Some of the signers were registered to vote outside of Legislative District 28 or weren’t registered to vote at all in Arizona when they allegedly signed the petition.

The attorneys also seek to invalidate entire nominating petition sheets because the circulator failed to sign the circulator verification accompanying the petition sheets they circulated, or because they didn’t completely fill out the circulator information on the back of the petitions.

Syms, a doctor and the husband of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, is running as an independent for the Senate in Legislative District 28. His candidacy is viewed by many as political payback for Republicans running a second candidate, Kathy Petsas, in the House.

Some Republicans believe Petsas is more likely to take out Maria Syms than Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler. And Republicans also worry that Mark Syms’ appearance on the ballot could split valuable votes for Brophy McGee and throw the race to Democrat Christine Marsh.

Syms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the complaint, the attorneys alleged that four circulators collected the majority of the signatures, about 1,330. Of those four circulators, three listed their address at a homeless shelter in Phoenix.

Langhofer and Kanefield said the signatures collected by the four circulators appeared in consecutive, or nearly consecutive order, based on numbered addresses, and the addresses were written in the same handwriting.

The attorneys argued that it was “highly unlikely” that this could occur given that during the course of signature gathering, circulators will often encounter people who will refuse to answer the door or decline to sign the petition.

They alleged that the circulators likely filled out the nominating petitions using voter registration rolls and then forged the signatures themselves, adding that many of the signatures were similar in size, spacing and had the same slant.

Langhofer and Kanefield argued that two of the circulators reportedly collected 200 signatures each in one day, which far exceeds the average 12 signatures per day other circulators collected, they wrote.

And one of the circulators, who listed his name as Anthony Garcia, is thought to have impersonated the real Garcia, “an experienced career circulator who has collected petitions signatures in Arizona for years,” the attorneys wrote. Not only will the real Anthony Garcia testify he never circulated nominating petitions on behalf of Syms, the attorneys said, but GPS data maintained by his employer will show that he was outside the boundaries of LD28 on the dates the circulator purporting to be Garcia collected signatures for the nominating petition.

Langhofer and Kanefield argued that once the signatures are invalidated, Syms will have fewer than the 1,250 valid signatures he needs to qualify for the ballot.