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Monday, Apr 24, 2017

Pasco audit finds voter registration fraud

The Republican consulting firm at the center of a national voter fraud scandal submitted three fraudulent voter registration forms to Pasco County. "It's amazing how this thing snowballed," Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said. Corley instructed staff members to audit all voter registration forms submitted by Strategic Allied Consulting — the firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida and paid $1.3 million to register voters throughout the state — after election officials from other counties reported irregularities. Only three registration forms were submitted using the third-party voter registration number registered to the state party. All three were duplicates of existing registered voters, and each contained glaring inconsistencies, Corley said.
"If you looked at the signatures, they couldn't be any more opposite," he said. Corley said the forms were dropped off with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections in February and then forwarded to his office for processing. The forms also contained incorrect birthdays, a misspelled name and incorrect Social Security numbers. One form incorrectly indicated the voter was switching parties. "They were more than suspicious," Corley said. "They were fraudulent." In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to "willfully submit" false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The questionable forms tied to the Republican Party have surfaced in South, Southwest and Northeast Florida, as well as the Panhandle. State Republican officials last week fired the vendor and took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company. That complaint was handed over Friday to state law enforcement authorities. But late Friday, the company posted a statement on its website and said 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 says it has "rigorous quality control measures" and blamed the Republican Party of Florida for the decision by the Republican National Committee to dump the company 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 recent years, Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature — citing suspicious voter registration forms submitted 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. On Monday, Corley notified state elections officials that his office received numerous voter registration forms from another third-party registrar — Rock the Vote — that violated the 10-day rule. The nonpartisan organization, which was launched more than 20 years ago by MTV, turned in 17 voter registration forms that were dated Aug. 28 but were not received by Corley's office until Sept. 24. Amanda Brown, Rock the Vote's national political director, included a letter explaining that business reply envelopes provided by the U.S. Postal Service caused delays in the processing of the registration forms. "We have been trying to track down the envelopes; but it was only on Tuesday that the envelopes were found in a sorting facility and returned to us," she wrote. Brown asked Corley to accept the registration forms "despite the delayed submission" since the Oct. 8 deadline to register for the general election is quickly approaching. Corley asked the Bureau of Voter Registration Services at the state Division of Elections for guidance in the matter.

lkinsler@tampatrib.com (813)371-1852 Twitter: @lkinslerTrib

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