Here’s a fraud story from Florida – man, if this is close, it’s going to get seriously, seriously ugly… This sort of thing is bad – this story happens to be about tossing Republican registrations, but I am equally against tossing Dem registrations. I want to win, but I want to win fairly.
Rumors of vote fraud rampant
BY PAIGE ST. JOHN
TALLAHASSEE – The U.S. Justice Department and state police are investigating widespread allegations of criminal vote fraud in Florida, days before the state closes registration for the presidential election.
Allegations range from phony voter registrations to forged party-affiliation change cards and absentee ballots.
“Several law enforcement investigations are under way,” wrote Elections Division Director Dawn Roberts in a Friday memo to election supervisors.
Agency spokeswoman Alia Faraj said the Justice Department has agreed to review the allegations of vote fraud in Florida. She could not further discuss the active state and federal investigations.
A field director for one of the many national partisan organizations trying to drum up votes in Florida admits to routine efforts to rig the outcome. They include submitting thousands of invalid voter registration cards, as well as failing to turn in boxes of cards filled out to register Republicans.
“There was a lot of fraud committed,” said Mac Stuart, former Miami-Dade field director for ACORN. Among his allegations – that ACORN “quality control” workers routinely kicked back Republican voter registrations while paying for Democratic ones. “They said they had enough,” he said.
ACORN is spearheading both a minimum wage ballot initiative and a voter registration drive. Its top two Florida directors failed to return telephone calls Friday.
Stuart is listed as a plaintiff in a notice of intent to sue ACORN and others in a discrimination class-action lawsuit. “The voter registration project has been operating illegally since it started,” the intent-to-sue filing asserts.
In Leon County, elections supervisor Ion Sancho said he found nearly 1,000 apparently fraudulent party-change forms. All were to re-register African American Democrats at Florida A&M University as Republican.
The suspect forms came to his office last week from the Florida Division of Elections office in Tallahassee, where employees said organizations conducting statewide voter registration drives are turning in thousands of records a day to beat Monday’s deadline.
“They didn’t have a clue where those forms came from,” Sancho said. He said he is concerned the state is forwarding similarly suspect forms to other counties.
Citing such “reports of irregularities” around the state, the Division of Elections on Friday afternoon sent a memorandum to county election supervisors, asking them to scrutinize “all voter registration agencies” in their counties and report suspect activity.
Active investigations include one in South Florida involving ACORN.
Stuart said he has been interviewed twice by an agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That FDLE agent declined Friday to confirm his investigation. Florida law makes it a third-degree felony to interfere with someone’s right to register as well as to pay a per-card solicitation fee for gathering registrations. Stuart says ACORN did both.
Stuart said ACORN officials at state headquarters in Tampa were aware of what was going on, and discouraged him from talking about it. He said he was ultimately fired as “a loose cannon.”
While Republican registrations were ignored, Stuart said those of convicted felons were eagerly sought, even though by law they are ineligible until they are granted clemency by the state. Stuart set up registration tables outside the Miami police department and Dade County jail.
“We targeted them because ACORN had a goal: 103,000 new registrations from Dade County,” Stuart said.
Brian Kettenring, ACORN’s state director in Florida, and Frank Houston, who spearheaded the affiliated Project Vote registration drive, did not return calls Friday.
The questions surrounding ACORN’s voter registration efforts were preceded by problems with initiative petition signatures the group submitted earlier in the year.
A Hillsborough County election official in July found some 800 apparently fraudulent signatures among the minimum wage petitions turned in by ACORN. Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson said he merely notified the organization, and ACORN agreed to police its own workers.
Such criminal allegations are giving initiative opponents a foothold for proposed amendments beyond those sponsored by ACORN.
Opponents of the slot-machine initiative contacted 5,278 individuals in Broward County who allegedly signed the gambling petition. Of those, 3,587 said the signature on the petition was not theirs. Another 33, the opponents allege, were dead.
In a lawsuit filed last week in Leon County circuit court, slot-petition opponents assert Floridians for a Level Playing Field paid Arno Political Consulting as much as $6.50 per petition signature.
The business practice, they contend, “invited the submission of fabricated signatures.”
The opponents include The Humane Society, Grey2K USA and Floridians Against Expanded Gambling.
The initiative to repeal high-speed rail is also being challenged in court for relying on fraudulent petitions.
With the federal investigation into registration fraud, such questions about faked petition signatures grow to fears of efforts to hijack November’s vote.
“We’re extremely concerned, with so many groups that came into Florida,” she said. “While it’s a great thing (to register voters) we encourage voters to get to know the group, and follow up with a phone call to the (election) supervisor” to make sure they are, indeed, registered.