TALLAHASSEE — With less than a week before the deadline to register to vote in the November election, Republican state leaders who had made voter fraud a top issue are offering little insight into how they are handling the increasing numbers of suspicious registration forms being found throughout Florida.
Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began a review of Strategic Allied Consulting after the company turned in more than 100 botched voter registration forms in Palm Beach County on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida. Subsequently, 10 other counties — Bay, Charlotte, Duval, Escambia, Lee, Okaloosa, Pasco, Miami-Dade, Santa Rosa and Walton — have reported similar issues with registration forms linked to that firm.
On Monday, a top elections official announced that the FDLE was investigating a second group, the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States, for turning in three questionable registration forms in Miami-Dade County.
The two cases, so far at least, are hardly equal in magnitude.
While the Strategic Allied Consulting case has received national attention, a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he didn’t know about the La Raza case until Monday — even though both cases were filed with the FDLE on Friday.
“It truly is a coincidence,” said Chris Cate of the only two reported cases of voter registration fraud in the past several months.
Miami-Dade election officials flagged three registration forms on Sept. 12 and emailed them to the secretary of state’s office. Christina White, a spokesman for the office, said the forms had similar handwriting for three different people, which is always a warning sign.
Cate said it took the Division of Elections until Friday to send the complaint to the FDLE. Asked if the filing of the La Raza complaint was timed to match the other, Cate replied: “Absolutely not, that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
A spokesman for La Raza said she didn’t know anything the complaint until a Times/Herald reporter told her about it Monday night.
“Thanks for telling us,” Camila Gallardo said. “This is news to us.”
Both groups have filed a hefty number of forms. La Raza is second in the state in number of forms filed, with 46,639, making it virtually tied with the Republican Party of Florida, who has registered 46,352 through Monday. But there have been far more problems with the RPOF’s forms, which have mostly been filled out by Strategic Allied Consulting.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said she is getting no direction from state officials as to how to proceed in checking the other forms filed by Strategic Allied Consulting, which was fired last week.
In the past 45 days, Palm Beach County has logged 15,000 new voters. Since Aug. 1, more than 60,000 registration forms were filed, many for changes of address or updating signatures. Bucher said she doesn’t know how many of those forms, now stored in a warehouse, were filled out by Strategic Allied Consulting.
“We’re not sure if we need to go back and check,” Bucher said Monday. “Obviously, it causes us great concern.”
Bucher was hoping to find out Monday if the state was going to instruct the counties with questionable forms to adopt a uniform method to review all forms filed by the firm.