FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Investigators in South Florida have uncovered an attempt to register dozens of dead people as Democratic voters, though no mail-in ballots were requested or cast under the falsified IDs.
Officials in Broward County, a Democratic stronghold and Florida's second most populous county, uncovered the scheme over the summer.
Someone in Columbia, South Carolina, mailed 51 new voter applications — each bearing the same neat handwriting — to the Broward County elections office in July, officials said. The story was first reported Friday by the South Florida SunSentinel.
Broward County supervisor of elections officials flagged the registrations as suspicious and turned them over to the Broward state attorney's office.
“We cannot comment on an ongoing, active criminal investigation,” state attorney’s office spokeswoman Paula McMahon told The Associated Press in an email.
But correspondence between the state attorney's office and Broward Elections Supervisor Pete Antonacci shows that officials could not determine who mailed the registrations because there was no return address. The registration applications were received in 19 envelopes.
Thirty of the 51 were verified by the state attorney's office as being deceased. The identities of the other 21 could not be verified by only date of birth and name, Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly said in a letter to Antonacci dated Oct. 22.
Five of the names were already on the voter rolls, but investigators said no absentee ballots had been requested. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot was Oct. 24.
The SunSentinel reported that at least three of the applications evaded detection and were added to the Broward voter rolls in July. Two of those people had died in June.
“This is an organized effort by someone who knew a little bit about Florida law but not a lot and had a scheme to either undermine the Florida registration system with fake voters or intended to vote 50 times,” Antonacci told the newspaper.
Elections officials said the applications were left blank in spaces for driver license and Social Security numbers. Voting under a false registration is more difficult because the voter would have to show identification before either voting or mailing in a ballot, according to Antonacci.
Antonacci told the newspaper that there is a lag time between when a voter dies and elections officials are notified, and the scammer appeared to take advantage of that.
“The system is based on the honor system, and the honor system is supposedly bolstered by the fact that if you lie on one of these applications, it’s a crime,” Antonacci said. “With determination, you can muscle your way in.”
In his letter, Donnelly said the most serious potential violation was criminal use of personal identification, which would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“We take any allegation of voter fraud very seriously because it affects our very democracy," Broward State Attorney Mike Satz said. “Anyone who has information regarding any attempt to commit the crime of voter fraud should report it to the Broward Supervisor of Elections and the Broward State Attorney’s Office so it can be thoroughly investigated.”