From The Michelle Rivera Campaign – Special Election Rhode Island Senate District 1:

I have reviewed the nomination papers of Mr. Biah and Representative Biah and identified a number of significant irregularities. I call on Mr. Bissaillon and Representative Biah to campaign under the highest ethical standards.

To begin with, Mr. Bissaillon’s nomination papers show significant evidence of three Senate employees working on his campaign.

It appears that Mr. Bissaillon, who was apparently only able to gather 17 signatures himself, may have been desperate enough to enlist three members of his taxpayer-funded staff to campaign for him. Mr. Justin McCarthy, who bears the same name as a Senate Legal Counsel earning $70,627.96 a year, circulated a sheet of signatures for Mr. Bissaillon. Mr. Oscar Vargas, who bears the same name as someone who makes $64,675.00 as a Senate Services Assistant, circulated a sheet of signatures for Mr. Bissaillon (or at least he says under oath that he did) and notarized another sheet. Finally, Mr. John E. Fleming Jr., whose name bears a remarkable similarity to the name of a Deputy Chief of Staff of the Senate earning $124,763.08 a year, notarized a sheet circulated by Mr. Vargas. I have included screenshots of the affidavits.

The sheet circulated by Mr. Vargas, notarized by Mr. Fleming, is a remarkable document. It contains twenty-three lines where the voters’ names and addresses are clearly in identical handwriting. Of these, only three were accepted by the local board as valid signatures. All of these signatures have addresses in Carroll Towers, a low-income public housing complex. I have included a screenshot of the sheet in question.

We the taxpayers fund the Senate staff to work for the Senate. As Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Mr. Bissaillon is the boss for McCarthy, Vargas, and Fleming. They are not in a position where they can afford to say no to requests for campaign work. Even if there is no explicit pressure, it doesn’t have to be said. The understanding is clear. In some states, it is a crime to divert public resources to campaigns, but of course I understand that this is Rhode Island. Mr. Bissaillon himself clearly understands the impropriety. After all, he indicated on his campaign finance filings that he intended to return multiple contributions from Senate staff working under him.

In the case of Representative Biah, there is clear evidence that he made a false statement under oath when he swore that all of the voters signed in his presence. There are multiple examples where the local board rejected signatures that were clearly in the same handwriting as other signatures. I include a clear example of two signatures that are clearly in the same distinctive handwriting, handwriting that also matches the handwriting of the address and name of the signature directly above. Both were rejected by the Providence Board of Canvassers. I also attach an additional example of clearly paired signatures, one of which was rejected by the Board of Canvassers.

In other apparent examples, where the Board-certified signatures that appear to be in the same handwriting, I am submitting challenges. There are enough examples that there is considerable reason to doubt whether Representative Biah, who only had 103 signatures verified by the Board, actually submitted 100 valid signatures. (I am aware that the Board of Canvassers sometimes stops verifying once a candidate exceeds 100 signatures, but they have given assurances in writing that in this case they did not do that.) I have filed the appropriate challenge paperwork under the expedited twenty-four-hour timeline the Board of Canvassers has placed on the election calendar. I urge the Board of Elections to follow the facts wherever they may lead.

Separate from the question of whether Representative Biah submitted enough valid signatures for ballot access, the pattern is clear and disturbing. It really appears that Representative Biah, desperate for signatures, repeatedly had voters sign for other members of their household. That is cheating, and it is illegal. I commend the Providence Board of Canvassers for identifying and striking many of these likely fraudulent signatures.

Moreover, I strongly condemn any attempt to blame the voters for these likely forgeries. When a state Representative asks you to do something, many people feel like they cannot say no. Many people may assume that it is okay to sign for family members if someone as official as a state Representative tells them it is okay. Indeed, if a state Representative even watches them do it without stopping them, many people may reasonably assume it is okay. People place great trust in their elected officials. When they violate that trust, it is deeply unfortunate.

The blame for what really looks like forgeries falls squarely in one place: Mr. Biah. Lieutenant Governor Matos is under fire for her campaign workers allegedly forging signatures without clear evidence that she knew. Imagine if it were proven that she knew of forgeries and still attested under oath that they were valid. In Representative Biah’s case, he has actually attested under oath that he witnessed these highly questionable signatures! He cannot claim he did not know. This is not a case of a campaign volunteer misunderstanding the rules. This is Representative Biah himself.

I urge Representative Biah to come clean and take responsibility for these likely forgeries. Moreover, unless he has a magical explanation, I urge him to apologize to the people of our community for making a false statement under oath.

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The Evidence


Two Biah signatures with the handwriting very clearly identical to the handwriting on a signature accepted by the Board of Canvassers (according to the Board of Canvassers, the S indicates that the Board of Canvassers has ruled that the signature is not valid, the A that it was accepted):

The matching affidavit where Mr. Biah attests under oath that all the voters listed on the sheet signed in his presence:

Two Biah signatures in identical handwriting (according to the Board of Canvassers, the S indicates that the Board of Canvassers has ruled that the signature is not valid, the A that it was accepted):

The matching affidavit for this sheet:


The Justin McCarthy affidavit for Bissaillon:

The Oscar Vargas affidavit for Bissaillon, notarized by John Fleming:

An additional Bissaillon affidavit notarized by Oscar Vargas:

And finally, the signatures sheet circulated by Vargas:

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