Miami-Dade County

As Trump claims voter fraud, his senior adviser registered to vote in two states

Stephen Bannon, chief strategist for President Donald Trump
Stephen Bannon, chief strategist for President Donald Trump Getty Images

President Donald Trump has called for a national investigation into voter fraud, including people who registered to vote in two states — despite the fact that his campaign chief registered in both Florida and New York.

The voter registration of Stephen Bannon drew a complaint during the campaign from a group that opposed Trump, but ultimately Florida election officials dropped the complaint.

Bannon wasn’t the only person close to Trump who has been registered in two states at once. The Washington Post confirmed a report by Heat Street that Trump’s daughter Tiffany was registered to vote in Pennsylvania and New York, while CNN reported that Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, is registered in New York and California.

On Wednesday, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office removed Bannon from the voter roll based on information received from the New York City Board of Elections, said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner. Bannon, who Trump named as a senior adviser after the election, never voted in Sarasota County.

Bannon registered to vote in Miami but never voted there. In August, Bannon switched his voter registration to Sarasota County. The global activist group Avaaz filed a complaint with the Florida Division of Elections on Oct. 19, 2016, claiming Bannon didn’t actually live at the Sarasota County address.

The address in Sarasota County was at the home of Breitbart News writer Andrew Badolato. Bannon ran the conservative news outlet until August.

But Bannon didn’t vote in Sarasota County, either. On Oct. 14, he registered to vote at an address on West 40th Street in New York City, according to Thomas Connolly, a spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections.

Bannon remains registered to vote in New York and voted in the Nov. 8 election, said Barbara Brunson, a clerk at the New York City Board of Elections. He voted by mail.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a day before the election, Bannon sent a letter to then-Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent asking to be removed from the voter rolls. Turner, who previously served in the office as chief of staff before becoming the supervisor, told the Herald, “I do not have record of such a letter in the elections office.”

Florida Division of Elections deputy counsel Lydia Atkinson wrote in a Jan. 11 letter to the person that filed the complaint that the state would take no further action after looking into it.

“These allegations are neither facially sufficient or do not set out an incident of ‘election fraud’ as defined,” she wrote.

Kendall Coffey, a Democrat and election law expert in Florida, said voters commonly don’t take the time to cancel a voter registration when they move and re-register in a new location. That’s common for college students, for example.

“It is not a crime to be registered in two states as long as, at the time of each registration, the voter’s residency was claimed truthfully,” said Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami. “Residency is principally a matter of the voter’s intent as long as there is some accompanying physical movement to the new location. If one intends the new location to be his or her residence, and has a residence in the new jurisdiction to which movement has been made, courts will usually find that to be sufficient.”

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning: “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

Trump has repeatedly claimed widespread national voter fraud, but there is no evidence to support his claims.

On Nov. 27 he tweeted that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” PolitiFact rated his claim Pants on Fire.

A spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that there are several safeguards in place to prevent election fraud and that broadly, there has been no indication of voter fraud.

“At present, the Florida Department of State is not aware of documented findings of illegal immigrants or non-citizens voting in Florida during the 2016 General Election,” spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said.

Although there has been no evidence of national voter fraud, there have been isolated local cases. In Miami, two women were arrested for voter fraud in October. Gladys Coego, a temporary worker at the Miami-Dade elections office tasked with opening envelopes sent by voters, was accused of illegally completing mail ballots. In an unrelated case, Tomika Curgil was charged with unlawfully filling out voter-registration forms on behalf of United for Care, a group that supported the medical marijuana amendment. Both cases remain pending.