For the better part of two years now, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Republican Party have been scouring the state like a sheriff and his posse, hot on the trail of election bandits.
Turns out, our Republican gunslingers didn’t have far to look. The wily varmints corrupting Florida’s electoral process have been working right under their noses.
Republican party operatives were running what appear to be a fraudulent voter registration activities in at least nine Florida counties (including Miami-Dade) and probably more. And they were doing it with party money. Strategic Allied Consulting, the party’s highest paid vendor, reportedly collected $667,598 in July, and another $667,598 in August to register new voters. But all that money came with a wink.
The unseemly ways of Strategic Allied became apparent in Palm Beach County on Sept. 5, when a campaign worker showed up at one of the county election supervisor’s satellite offices with a bundle of 304 new voter registration forms. All filled out. Each included the requisite ID number that identified the Republican Party of Florida as the responsible organization that had registered the voters and collected their signatures.
“One of my workers noticed that a lot of the applications had very similar handwriting and signatures and other discrepancies,” Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told me Friday. The worker summoned Bucher. She noticed that dates were wrong. Ages were wrong. Some of the home addresses actually corresponded to commercial locations, including a gas station and a car dealership. The supervisor counted 106 new registration forms she considered blatant works of fraud. She called the Palm Beach County State Attorney.
Bucher also put in a call to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the state’s elections. Detzner, a former lobbyist for the beer industry, has been the governor’s big gun in the campaign against election fraud. But apparently not this particular sort of election fraud. Bucher said Friday that she still hasn’t heard back from Detzner or one of his deputies. After the story hit the newspapers last week, “I got a call from the kid who answers the phones in his office. That’s all.”
But she did start hearing from other county election supervisors across the state who checked back through registration forms collected by Strategic Allied Consulting and found more suspicious signatures and dodgy addresses. In Okaloosa County, dead residents (a demographic quite useful to anyone intending to cast fraudulent absentee ballots) had been registered by Strategic Allied Consulting workers under the auspices of the Republican Party. In Santa Rosa County, about 100 registration forms with the lousy signatures, addresses and social security numbers have been flagged. So far.
After the story broke last week, roiling through the newspapers, political blogs and cable television, the Florida Republican Party fired the outfit. So did the state Republican party organizations in North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia. And finally the Republican National Committee, which had paid the firm $2.9 million to work its magic in swing states, announced that it was severing its relationship with Strategic Allied Consulting. The Florida party bosses also filed a formal election fraud complaint against its own vendor.