News Column

Fraudulent Letters Target Fla. GOP Voters

Oct. 25, 2012

Laura Kinsler

Pasco County has joined the growing list of Florida counties where voters have received fraudulent letters questioning their citizenship and eligibility to vote.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said Wednesday that he has received calls from two voters who received the suspect letters -- with a Seattle postmark -- with his name and a fake letterhead.

The letters urge the recipient to "stop by our main office with any original documentation that demonstrates U.S. citizenship." The letter goes on to say the voter can "request an administrative hearing with the Supervisor of Elections to prove U.S. citizenship."

Corley said there's a "clear similarity" to the official letters that went out several months ago from the state's Division of Elections as part of Florida's controversial voter purge. The difference is that this crop of letters appears to be targeting Republican super voters -- people who vote in every election.

"I don't know if they're making a political statement," Corley said. "I do know it's illegal, and whoever is doing it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The fraudulent letters also contain statements that weren't included in the authentic letters: in bold print, it warns the voter that if he could be subject to "arrest, imprisonment and/or other criminal sanctions" for casting a ballot as an unregistered voter.

"It clearly is voter suppression, and it's deplorable," Corley said.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner launched a statewide investigation since the letters first started appearing in Brevard County last week. As of Wednesday, voters from nearly half of Florida's 67 counties had reported receiving similar letters. The FBI is also involved because the letters crossed state lines.

The envelope has "County Supervisor, Division of Elections" but no return address. The sender used stamps instead of bulk mail. "The obvious reason for that is because bulk mail can be traced," Corley said.

Tami Bentley, Pasco's senior deputy for voter services, has been with the supervisor's office for 16 years. She has seen an unprecedented number of complaints and issues regarding voter registration this season.

"I want to say it gets worse with every presidential election," Bentley said. "The electronic age has really changed things. There's a lot of private information out there that's easily accessible: people's addresses and voter lists."

Voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have also received the fraudulent letters.

Detzner, who oversees the Florida Division of Elections, said a person who commits or attempts to commit voter intimidation, voter suppression or corruptly influencing voting can be convicted of a third-degree felony, and would face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Source: (c)2012 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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