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Forum Post: Voter Registration Problems Widening in Florida

Posted 10 years ago on Sept. 29, 2012, 12:28 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Voter registration problems widening in Florida

By GARY FINEOUT | Associated Press – 12 hrs ago


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide, with election officials in nine counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.

State Republican officials already have fired the vendor it had hired to register voters, and took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, with state officials. That complaint was handed over Friday to state law-enforcement authorities.

A spokesman for Florida's GOP said the matter was being treated seriously.

"We are doing what we can to find out how broad the scope is," said Brian Burgess, the spokesman.

Florida is the battleground state where past election problems led to the chaotic recount that followed the 2000 presidential election.

The Florida Democratic Party called on the state to "revoke" the ability of state Republicans to continue to register voters while the investigation continues. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

"It is clear that the Republican Party of Florida does not have the institutional controls in place to be trusted as a third-party, voter registration organization," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

The Republican Party of Florida has paid Strategic Allied Consulting more than $1.3 million, and the Republican National Committee used the group for work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia. The company said earlier this week that it was cooperating with elections officials in Florida. It initially said the suspect forms were turned in by one person, who has been fired.

"Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law," Fred Petti, a company attorney, said Thursday.

But late Friday the company put out a lengthy statement on its website and said that it was aware of questionable forms in other counties and that it confirmed in each of those counties that the problem was with "one individual." Strategic said it had more than 2,000 people working in the state of Florida.

Strategic insisted that it has "rigorous quality control measures" and it blamed the Republican Party of Florida for the decision by Republican National Committee to dump the company on Thursday. "When the Republican Party of Florida chose to make likely libelous comments about our effort and stated that the Republican National Committee suggested us as the vendor, the RNC was put in the unenviable position of ending a long-term relationship for the sake of staying focused on the election," the company stated.

In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to "willfully submit" any false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

In recent years, Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature — citing suspicious voter registration forms turned in by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN — has cracked down on groups holding voter registration drives.

The League of Women Voters filed a federal lawsuit against some of the restrictions and Florida agreed earlier this month to drop a new requirement to turn in registration applications within 48 hours after they are signed. The state has reinstated a 10-day deadline.

The questionable forms tied to the Republican Party have showed up in South Florida, including Miami-Dade, as well as counties in southwest and northeast Florida as well as the Florida Panhandle. Election officials in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties on Thursday handed over more than 100 suspect forms to local prosecutors. They did so days after officials in Palm Beach County also alerted prosecutors.

Ann Bodenstein, the elections supervisor for Santa Rosa County, said her staff started raising questions after an employee saw a form that changed the home address of a neighbor.

Paul Lux, election supervisor for Okaloosa County, said questionable forms in the Florida Panhandle appear to have all come from Strategic's effort based at the local Republican Party headquarters. He said his office has turned up dozens of suspect forms.

Lux said there have been forms that listed dead people and were either incomplete or illegible. He met with local prosecutors on Friday, but added that his staff was still going through hundreds of forms dropped off by Strategic employees.

Lux, who is a Republican, said he warned local party officials earlier this month when he first learned the company was paying people to register voters.

"I told them 'This is not going to end well,'" Lux said.

But Lux added that he did not blame the Republican Party of Florida.

"I can't place the blame on RPOF if they hired a firm and that firm wasn't following the rules they were given to follow," Lux said.

The state party filed the complaint against Strategic Allied Consulting with state election officials, who late Friday handed the case over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

An FDLE spokeswoman said the agency would not automatically open a criminal investigation, but would review to see if there were "possible criminal acts."

Follow Gary Fineout on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fineout



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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Suspicious Voter Forms Found in Florida - Again

Sunday, 30 September 2012 09:39 By Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times News Service | Report


Miami - The number of Florida counties reporting suspicious voter registration forms connected to Strategic Allied Consulting, the firm hired by the state Republican Party to sign up new voters, has grown to 10, officials said, as local election supervisors continue to search their forms for questionable signatures, addresses or other identifiers. After reports of suspicious forms surfaced in Florida, the company — owned by Nathan Sproul, who has been involved in voter registration efforts since at least the 2004 presidential election — was fired last week by the state Republican Party and the Republican National Committee. The party had hired it to conduct drives in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

In Colorado, a young woman employed by Strategic Allied was shown on a video outside a store in Colorado Springs recently telling a potential voter that she wanted to register only Republicans and that she worked for the county clerk's office. The woman was fired, said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

The Florida Division of Elections has forwarded the reports of possible fraud to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. Prosecutors in some affected counties are also investigating. It is unclear how many forms have been forwarded, in all: in Palm Beach County, the election supervisor found 106 suspicious forms, but the number in several other counties is far lower.

Bay County has found eight suspicious forms with the Republican Party registration code connected to Strategic Allied. In Pasco County, three have been found.

The state Republican Party, which paid the company $1.3 million to register voters here, said it would file an elections fraud complaint against Strategic Allied, which is based in Tempe, Ariz. Mr. Sproul was once the executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. In 2004, his voter registration project was investigated by the Justice Department and the attorneys general in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon after widespread allegations of fraud surfaced, but no charges were brought.

Questions are now being raised about how the company's employees were paid to register voters.

Mary Blackwell, a volunteer for the League of Women Voters in Okaloosa County, said she was registering voters this month at Northwest Florida State College. Sitting nearby was a man who said he was registering voters for the Republican Party of Florida. The man told her he received $12 an hour but had to bring in at least 10 forms to get paid.

Paul Lux, the election supervisor for Okaloosa County, a Republican who is still combing through registration forms in his office, said he was told by several "concerned citizens," including Ms. Blackwell, that the employees were being paid for the number of forms they brought back.

In Florida, it is illegal to pay someone per registration form. "I told my friends in the party then that paying people to do this was a bad idea, and it almost inevitably leads to problems," Mr. Lux said. "Unfortunately, I was not proven wrong."

Fred Petti, a lawyer for Strategic Allied, said the employees were paid only by the hour, with no quota attached. He added that they also were instructed to register anyone from any political party, not just the Republican Party.

Previous investigations of Mr. Sproul's operations focused on efforts to register only Republicans or allegations that Democratic forms were torn up. Mr. Petti also said that Mr. Sproul cooperated with the Palm Beach County election supervisor to find out who was at fault and has offered to do the same with other election supervisors. In Palm Beach County, one person was responsible for the fraudulent forms, officials said. Mr. Petti said he does not yet know how widespread the problem is in other counties.

Election supervisors said they have come across forms with handwriting that did not match previous registration forms, bogus addresses and other identifiers like driver's license numbers that appeared to be invalid. But in other cases, the forms were just incomplete, which does not constitute fraud.

"Until we see what the cards are, it's hard for us to comment," Mr. Petti said.

Mark Anderson, the Bay County supervisor, said he has found eight questionable forms in his county, but he is looking for more. The forms had either unchecked boxes for party affiliation or signatures that looked different from previous ones. He said he had also received calls from voters who said they had not changed their party affiliation, although it appeared they had. "I don't believe there is going to be massive numbers," Mr. Anderson said.

Election supervisors are able to pinpoint the group responsible for the questionable forms because of a 2011 state law that tightened rules on voter registration groups. The law, which sparked lawsuits and controversy, requires groups to register with the state and have their registration number on the forms they distribute.

A provision that required groups to turn in registration forms within 48 hours was struck down in court this year. "The Republican Legislature was beaten up pretty badly, partially by myself," Mr. Lux said. "But they seem to have been doing something to improve the process."

© 2012 The New York Times Company

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 10 years ago

Stop this silly shit!!!!! ALL americans should be regstiered AUTO!!!.............