AURORA | Judy DeSantis died Jan. 25. Almost four months later, she is the focus of perhaps the strangest turn of events in an already convoluted saga surrounding the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office announced Tuesday afternoon, May 17, that they had notified the Denver district attorney “that a petition circulator turned in the signature of a deceased voter” — that of the late DeSantis.
DeSantis’ signature — dated March 28, more than two months after she died — was among those turned in by Maureen Moss, who worked for the campaign of former state Rep. Jon Keyser collecting petition signatures to make the June 28 GOP primary ballot in the race for U.S. Senate. Moss, who was discovered to have turned in multiple signatures that appear to be forged, was fired by the company that was hired for the signature effort.
Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman was the first to report DeSantis’ signature being referred to the D.A.’s office, which recently launched a criminal inquiry into reports of multiple forged signatures on the ballot petitions from Keyser’s campaign.
Williams, in a statement, said that an elections staffer in his office was contacted in mid-April and told “there might be problems with petitions collected by” Moss. But Williams said that the information was not conveyed to him personally until Tuesday.
“As soon as I was made aware of this, I directed my staff to refer the matter of the deceased voter to the district attorney,” Williams said.
Keyser’s name will appear on the GOP primary ballot, a state official said Monday, days after the forged signatures were found.
Williams said there was no indication that any GOP Senate campaign — including Keyser’s — was aware of any irregularities in the handling of petitions by subcontractors for the campaigns.
KMGH-TV reported last week that it had uncovered 10 forged voter signatures among petitions supporting Keyser. Asked then about the disputed signatures, Keyser repeatedly declared, “I’m on the ballot.”
In an interview with The Denver Post on Monday, he blamed the forged signatures on an employee hired by a canvassing firm tied to his campaign.
“It appears, in fact, that some of those signatures were turned in in an improper manner and that’s a very, very serious thing,” Keyser said. “It’s an extremely serious allegation. I think that speaks to why I was very measured and very disciplined in talking about this.”
The winner of the June 28 primary will take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
Williams initially ruled that Keyser’s campaign didn’t get enough signatures to qualify for the primary. A judge overturned that decision after a challenge by Keyser.
Keyser and candidates Jack Graham, Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier chose to petition their way onto the primary ballot by collecting at least 1,500 voter signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. Daryl Glenn was voted to the primary at the Colorado GOP’s state convention in March.
Williams’ office ensures, among other things, that the signatures come from registered voters; that no one has signed for two candidates in the same race; and that signature gatherers are registered voters, list a current address and declare under oath they have complied with all statutes.
“That oath is what allows us then to count those signatures,” Williams said.
Williams said the campaign has raised questions and future discussion about possible training for circulators; the timing of June party primaries; and schedules involving the sending of overseas ballots and handling of petition signatures.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.