Top PC staffer indicted on nine counts of U.S. voter fraud when he was a university student, pled guilty to one charge

By Allison Smith and and Sabrina Nanji November 5, 2019

Joshua Workman, chief of staff to Ontario’s Labour, Training and Skills Minister Monte McNaughton, pled guilty to a voter fraud charge in the United States in 2003.

Workman, who was raised in London, Ontario, enrolled in Lees-McRae College in North Carolina in 1997 when he was 17, and soon thereafter became active in the campus’ youth Republican group.

Court documents from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, obtained by Queen’s Park Today, reveal Workman was indicted on nine counts of “falsely and willfully” representing himself as a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote and cast a ballot in the May 2000 presidential primary race and the 2002 U.S. general election in Avery County, NC.

He was also charged with lying on his student visa form to gain reentry into the U.S. after being suspended from Lees-McRae. According to court filings, Workman knowingly attributed the name of a fictitious admissions director, Scott Stewart, to his immigration form.

In a plea deal, Workman pled guilty to one of the voting related charges — falsely claiming he was a U.S. citizen in order to vote in an election — as well as student visa fraud. He was given a $200 fine and sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.

According to the signed plea agreement, also obtained by Queen’s Park Today, the grand jury charges carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Since returning to Canada, Workman has had a 15-year-long career as a conservative staffer and campaign operative, but his current role as McNaughton’s chief of staff appears to be the first time he has worked for an elected government.

A spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford’s office told Queen’s Park Today that the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has been aware of Workman’s legal history for years.

“When I was a teenager, more than half a lifetime ago, I made some very well-documented mistakes. I was wrong. I admitted it and I’ve taken full responsibility for my actions,” Workman told QPT in a statement.

McNaughton defended Workman in a 2007 article in the Sarnia Observer, touting his volunteer service and saying “Workman is a good guy, and as we all know, many teenagers make a mistake or two.”

However, sentencing documents identify Workman’s date of birth as August, 22 1980, making him 22 years old when he cast a ballot in the U.S. general election in November 2002.

The conservative operative is not coy about his foray into Republican politics — or his legal trouble south of the border.

Workman’s detailed Wikipedia page acknowledges the conviction, saying in 2003 he “pleaded guilty to minor charges of providing false information to a federal agency.” The page does not note that the false information he provided was related to voter fraud.

One of the top entries on Workman’s LinkedIn profile boasts that “at age 19, he was elected to attend the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, PA.”

According to the Republican Party of North Carolina’s rule book, only “citizens of North Carolina” can register as party members or be elected delegates. Workman did not respond to questions from Queen’s Park Today about how he achieved delegate status without U.S. citizenship.

Under the U.S. electoral system, Republican and Democratic delegates are elected at the state level then travel to their party’s national convention to nominate a presidential candidate.

“If we nominate George W. Bush and he goes on to become one of the great presidents, then I can tell my kids I was there. I was part of the nominating process.” Workman told the Associated Press in 2000.

Workman’s attendance at the Republican National Convention was well-chronicled by the U.S. press.

In 2000, Indy Week profiled Workman’s wheeling and dealing during the convention in Philadelphia, where he was one of the youngest delegates.

“Hair spiked and gelled, sporting a pierced tongue and a nipple ring, he has been fielding so many party invitations that he has to run a spreadsheet program to keep track of his social calendar,” reporter Barry Yeoman wrote at the time, adding that Workman skied competitively, played lacrosse and was “already a veteran of numerous GOP campaigns.”

Workman told the reporter he had recently become a U.S. citizen.

Yeoman described Workman as representative of “the best and brightest” in a new generation of young Republicans, adding he “might be the most sought-after North Carolinian anywhere in the country.”

In 2000, Workman was also quoted in the Washington Post, warning Bush would harm the electoral future of the Republican Party if he selected a vice-presidential running mate who supported abortion, calling the potential move “insulting to the base.”

Indy Week, the Post and the Associated Press all describe Workman as a North Carolina Republican delegate.

Workman served as deputy campaign manager for ex-PC leader Patrick Brown (but stepped aside soon after Brown was accused of sexual misconduct). According to Wikipedia, he also assisted on campaigns for federal-level politicians, including former London-area Conservative MP Bev Shipley.

At Queen’s Park, Workman was a staffer for a number of PC MPPs while they were on the Opposition bench beginning in 2004, including Jim Flaherty, John O’Toole, Ernie Hardeman and McNaughton, according to LinkedIn.

McNaughton promoted Workman to chief of staff after the PCs won the election last summer. At the time, McNaughton was minister of infrastructure. He was shuffled to the labour file in June and was handed the additional skills and training portfolio in October.

The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing U.S. think tank that advocates against voter fraud, lists Workman’s conviction among two dozen other criminal convictions related to ineligible voting or duplicate voting in North Carolina over the past two decades.

Voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States and in Canada. However, south of the border, concern over the practice has led to the passage of voter ID laws that many consider discriminatory.

Lorraine Minnite, a professor of political science at Rutgers University who mentions Workman’s case in her 2015 expert report on voter fraud, says his case is now being used as “propaganda” by organizations like the Heritage Foundation to push for more restrictive voting laws.

“The fact he’s a Canadian or was a young person probably doesn’t make any difference,” Minnite said, in an interview with Queen’s Park Today. “He’s part of the data of evidence of non-citizens registering and voting in the United States.”