When Sheriff’s deputies in San Joaquin County, CA began investigating Shakir Khan regarding an illegal internet gambling operation, they had no idea that they’d ultimately stumble into an election fraud scheme with major implications throughout California and possibly nationwide. A search warrant executed at Khan’s home in the fall of 2020 revealed a stash of 41 completed mail ballots that were not Khan’s, and over the next two years they learned that Khan registered approximately 70 people to vote at his address, with his contact information, some of whom are not US citizens and do not live in the US, and cast ballots for them.
In addition, Khan re-registered California voters through the state’s online voter registration process who did not live in his district to his address (so they could vote for him), and listed his own phone number, and email address as the contact. That way any verification emails or calls would come to him. Through loopholes in the system, those registrations were validated and those ballots were mailed to Khan’s home and either he filled them out and returned them, or pressured the voters he’d re-registered to fill it out as he instructed them to, “one for me and one for Biden.” Khan also allegedly forged signatures on his candidate nomination papers to even get on the ballot.
So, how did this happen?
In 2019 there was a spate of violent crime in a particular area of Stockton, prompting the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office to investigate what might be causing it. They discovered a number of illegal internet gambling establishments, almost all of which closed down after visits from deputies who warned the operators about what charges they could face if they did not. The one establishment that refused the deputies’ suggestion was the American Smokers Club, operated by Shakir Khan of Lodi. Deputies started investigating that establishment, and while executing a search warrant at Khan’s home shortly before the 2020 election they located the above-referenced completed ballots in a box. Since ballot harvesting was legal and they had no reason to believe that those 41 ballots weren’t in Khan’s possession for that reason, they simply photographed the ballots for documentation and left them there.
The investigation continued, and eventually Khan was arrested in fall 2021 on the illegal internet gambling charges (which also included money laundering and EDD fraud charges). He was released on his own recognizance (OR) but violated the terms of that agreement by leaving the state on multiple occasions. As a result of those violations, in the fall of 2022 officers had Khan returned to court, and the judge ordered Khan to be fitted with an ankle monitor.
Between the time investigators executed the search warrant at Khan’s home and the time Khan was fitted with an ankle monitor, a concerned citizen had requested a meeting with Sheriff’s investigators about some irregularities they’d found on the county’s voter rolls after the 2020 election. When investigators looked into it, they noticed 70 people registered to vote at one address, and recognized the address as Khan’s.
Also in the fall of 2022, investigators completed a compliance check at Khan’s home, to ensure he was complying with the conditions of his OR agreements. During that check they found more ballots — ballots for the 2022 general election. Those ballots were not opened and not filled out, but they were not for Khan, and while some of them were not addressed to his home, most of them were. They also found the nomination papers for Khan’s 2020 city council run, which must be signed by registered voters that live in the district, and noticed the name of Khan’s brother, who they knew lived in Pakistan since they’d been in contact with the brother during the prior investigation. Investigators later determined that a number of the signatures on Khan’s candidate nomination papers had been forged, after speaking with the people whose names had been signed on the paperwork.
Sheriff Patrick Withrow opened up a press conference announcing Khan’s arrest on election fraud charges by saying:
Our investigation uncovered that Councilman Shakir Khan has attempted to undermine, manipulate, and violate one of our most fundamental rights here in our country, and that is the right to free and fair elections.
During the hour-long press conference, investigators described Khan’s scheme in great detail, which highlighted systemic problems in California’s voter registration process and gaping holes in alleged safeguards against election fraud. Due to these loopholes, Khan was able to register these ineligible voters and have those ballots cast and counted. As the investigator described (emphasis mine):
“We did notice some issues in the voting process…the way the voting system is structured. We see quite a few flaws.
“You’re able to register and cast a vote even if you don’t live in the country, as evident of his brother in Pakistan. I think we have some evidence of two or three other people out of the country that voted…
The online voter registration system, it seems to be an honor system. Anybody can put information in there to register to vote. All you have to do is click the box and say that you’re not lying and then you’ll get an email from the SOS or something in the mail saying thank you for registering to vote, and there you are. Once you’re on the voter rolls, anytime an election comes around, guess what? You get mailed a ballot….So we found that a little bit problematic.
And then there’s an issue with signature verification. So on Khan’s candidacy paperwork we noticed several forgeries on there, and when we compared it to the DMV database they were not accurate. So we’re working with that to find out where the flaw is in that particular issue.
People can re-register to vote in a district they don’t actually live in because you can do it all online. There’s no checks and balances to say yes, this person did move, or anything like that. Again, an honor system.
Although the California Secretary of State’s office has attempted to punt any blame for ineligible people being registered to vote and/or voting, San Joaquin County Registrar Olivia Hale noted that when registrations are done through the state’s online system they are not processed in the same way. Answering a question from a reporter about the registrations Khan is alleged to have illegally completed, Hale said:
These were online registrations done with the online registration process through the Secretary of State. Those forms were then forwarded to our office and there is a verification process, but it looks as though, it appears as though there’s been a workaround of that process and so we’re going to have to actively look into that and what we can do about that.
They came through as online registrations, so they’re put into a state database called VoteCal, and then brought down to our system, and then the verification process is simply verifying that there’s a driver’s license and a four-digit social security number, and if those are present then they’re able to move from the pending status into active status.
Hale noted that there is no signature provided during the registration process online so the first signature they receive is the first response the “voter” sends in. So the voter registration confirmation cards are sent out in the mail, to Khan’s address, so he would have been the person signing that card, and any subsequent ballots mailed in would have had a signature match. Or, for people who would have already had a signature in the system, Khan bullied them into voting for him and then signing the envelope. A cursory reading of the Secretary of State’s National Voting Rights Act manual did not show specific procedures for verifying online voter registrations.
Some of the anomalies the concerned citizen pointed out to the Sheriff’s Department were shared at the press conference, and they are extremely concerning. This is just one county in California, and we know that there are other countries that are probably in much worse shape. And, how many other states have similar flaws in their voter registration system?
They noticed that there were about 93 people that were registered to vote…with a birth date of 1850. There were 232 people registered to vote with the address to our local prisons. There were 4,144 people that were 90 years old and older. There were 125 people on the voter rolls that were registered to – their address comes back to nonprofit NGO’s and different businesses.
There were approximately 300 people with no first name, just a last name….
There were 110 people that were possible double voters, basically the same name, date of birth, and address, but different voter ID numbers.
People were registered to vote at various shelters and all that. We even found one person on the voter rolls by the name of Jesus Christ, which we found interesting.
In this bodycam video from San Joaquin County investigators, a voter confirms that he did not sign Khan’s candidate nomination form.
Khan told this voter how to fill out the ballot, and told them, “One for me, and one for Biden.”
Another person told investigators that Khan took her ID until she filled out her ballot in the way he instructed.
Investigators also played video from interviews with voters who were properly registered to vote, but not in Khan’s district, who were re-registered by Khan with Khan’s address, so they would be eligible to vote for him for City Council. Those voters confirmed that they had not moved and did not consent to Khan re-registering them, but were intimidated into going along with his scheme.
Regarding the 2020 general election, Khan is charged with:
- Causing/procuring/allowing false voter registration of self/another person
- Submission of fraudulent registration to the Secretary of State
- Aiding/Abetting the commission of fraud at any election
- Subscription of fictitious names to nomination petitions
- False nomination/declaration of candidacy
- Fraudulently casting votes
- Procuring/assisting/counseling/advising another not qualified to vote.
The Sheriff’s office noted, though, that they are still waiting on additional indictments to be returned, probably regarding the ballots found at Khan’s home prior to the 2022 election, and that the information has also been relayed to federal investigators.
Read the full text of Khan’s indictment:
KhanComplaint February 17 by Jennifer Van Laar on Scribd
The entire press conference can be viewed here: