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Fla. elections supervisors assist in probe of firm hired for voter registration

By John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post –

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Investigations into whether a firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida to register voters handed in forged registration forms spread from Palm Beach County to at least six other counties in the state Friday. In one case, in Santa Rosa County, a form was filled out in the name of a dead person.

While supervisors of elections were handing suspect forms to prosecutors around the state, the Florida GOP announced it would file an elections fraud complaint against the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, a company started by Arizona-based consultant Nathan Sproul.

The firm has been fired, not only by the Republican Party of Florida but also by the Republican National Committee, which hired it to register voters in crucial swing states, including Florida. The state GOP had been paying the firm $1.3 million to register voters and the RNC about $3 million.

A spokesman for Florida’s GOP said the matter was being treated very seriously.

“We are doing what we can to find out how broad the scope is,” said Brian Burgess, the spokesman.

The Florida Democratic Party called on the state to “revoke” the ability of state Republicans to register voters while the investigation continues. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“It is clear that the Republican Party of Florida does not have the institutional controls in place to be trusted as a third-party, voter registration organization,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, who set off the statewide probe this week when she discovered questionable forms coming from the firm Strategic Allied Consulting, said she and her staff would have to review registration forms that had come in earlier in the year to check for additional problems. She said those forms number in the thousands.

In the original batch, Bucher said, she and her staff found forms that featured similar-looking signatures and wrong addresses. News of the allegedly tainted registration forms was first made public by The Palm Beach Post Tuesday, after Bucher turned over 106 suspicious forms to the State Attorney’s Office.

By Thursday, Paul Lux, Okaloosa County elections supervisor, had seen The Post’s story online and disseminated it to the other 65 county voting supervisors.

Lux had recently sent some registration forms filed with his office to Elections Supervisor Ann Bodenstein in neighboring Santa Rosa because the purported registrants lived in her county.

“She called me and said, ‘You better look at these, because some of them are a little funny,’ ” Lux said. In fact, one the new voters in Santa Rosa turned out to deceased, Lux said.

“Ann found the Holy Grail for this kind of activity — a dead voter,” Lux said.

Lux began to check and saw that some forms gathered by Strategic Allied Consulting for his county contained clear errors. The last two digits of a person’s date of birth are always included in that person’s driver license number. But Lux found forms where that wasn’t true. Other forms contained addresses that don’t exist and others were incomplete.

On one form, a person registered as Robert Johnson and said he lived on Wexler Street and then signed the form “Robert Wexler.” Wexler is a former liberal Democratic congressman from Palm Beach County.

Lux and his staff found dozens of questionable registrations and he contacted the county state attorney’s office. Lux, who is a Republican, said the questionable forms mostly indicated the person was registering as a Republican.

Lux also said that in his county Strategic Allied Consulting works out of Republican Party campaign headquarters. And since the firm is not registered with the state as a third-party voter registration organization, it uses the identification number for such activities issued to the Florida GOP, “11-93.” But Lux blamed the firm, not his party.

“I can’t place the blame on RPOF if they hired a firm and that firm wasn’t following the rules they were given to follow,” Lux said.

That same “11-93” code was on the top of questionable forms filled out in Palm Beach County as well, but Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein said Friday the firm did not work out of GOP offices in the county.

“I’ve never met or even heard of any of those people,” he said.

The RNC has paid the firm $3 million for work in important swing states, including Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.

The company’s CEO, longtime GOP activist Nathan Sproul, this week defended his company and said the forged forms were due to the actions of “a few bad apples.”

“Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law,” Fred Petti, a company attorney, said Thursday.

Lux said he warned local GOP officials in his county this month when he first learned the company was paying people to register voters. “This kind of thing never ends well,” he said.

Ion Sancho, Leon County supervisor, agreed about the risks of paying people to register voters.

“You find a phone book, open it and start filling out forms,” he said. “It saves you a lot of running around.”

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