TALLAHASSEE -- As the debate continues over whether or not to purge Florida’s voting rolls of potential non-citizens before the November elections, at least one person faces possible time in prison for voting illegally in 2008.
Josef Sever, 52, a Canadian citizen born in Austria, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally voting in the November 4, 2008, presidential election as a non-U.S. citizen, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He also pleaded guilty to obtaining a firearms license by falsely claiming he was a U.S. citizen.
Sever, who lives in Plantation, faces up to five years in prison for the voting and gun-related offenses. Though his case offers evidence that immigrant voter fraud does exist in Florida, it is the only such case that has been investigated by state law enforcement this year.
“Sever stated that he was not a U.S. citizen and admitted that he had registered and voted in at least two U.S. presidential elections despite not being a U.S. citizen,” court documents show.
In court, Sever admitted that four different times, between 2007 and 2010, he bought firearms from a licensed dealer in Hialeah while claiming U.S. citizenship. He repeated the U.S. citizenship claim in 2010 when he renewed his Florida concealed weapons and firearm permit.
In early 2008, Sever registered to vote in Broward County, again stating he was a U.S. citizen and voted in the November 4, 2008, presidential election. He registered with “no party affiliation” on March 8, 2008. The statute of limitation for the federal offense of so-called “alien voting” is five years.
According to court records, Sever’s illegal voting was discovered during Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial push to identify potential non-citizens on voting rolls using information from the state motor vehicle agency. Though the Department of State amassed a list of 180,000 potential non-citizens registered to vote, it only sent one name —Sever’s — to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate criminally.
FDLE says it is currently investigating six total cases of voter fraud in a state of more than 11 million voters. Lawmakers, citing a widespread voter fraud problem, passed several measures to change voting processes last year. Critics bashed the changes — including a crackdown on voter registration drives and shortened early voting — as “voter suppression” and federal judges have blocked many of them.
The Justice Department has feuded with Scott over his voter purge, challenging the action in the courts. The Justice Department argued that the purge was taking place too close to the actual election, violating the Voter Registration Act. A judge threw out the challenge after Scott’s administration said it would not be using the list to purge voters.
A purge list of 2,600 names did find some non-citizens who were registered to vote, but many of those suspected were actually U.S. citizens.
After the Aug. 14 primary, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he would take up the voter purge issue before this year’s general election on November 6.