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GOP voters target of fraudulent letters

TALLAHASSEE —The Florida Division of Elections and state law enforcement officials are investigating reports from at least 24 counties — including Broward and Palm Beach — that eligible voters have received bogus letters saying they have been flagged as suspected noncitizen voters.

The letters are written to make it look like they came from the recipient's local supervisor of elections office. The envelopes carry a similar notation. But they are not official letters and supervisors are alerting residents of the hoax.

Seemingly aimed at politically active Republicans, it's the latest case involving voter fraud to emerge in Florida and it comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

"It makes me angry," said Jeff Guerra, a 43-year-old sales representative from New Port Richey who received a letter Tuesday. "I want this to be an honest election. Something like this is obviously a scam, I'm really taken aback."

Officials know of "dozens" of fraudulent letters but that number could climb in the next few days, said Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner. The case has been referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI.

"We don't know the intention of the letters," Cate said. "They certainly have the possibility of intimidating voters. ... We're going to make sure the people who did this are brought to justice."

The case could be interpreted as voter intimidation, Cate said, which is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail. Finding out more about those behind the mailing might be difficult, said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the FDLE, which launched a criminal investigation into the case Tuesday.Two weeks ago, the agency launched another criminal investigation into a case involving fraudulent voter registration applications filed by a private vendor hired by the Republican Party of Florida.

"We'll be reaching out to other states and contacting the letter recipients for the purpose of identifying commonalities," Plessinger said.

The letters arrived in envelopes with a Seattle, Wash., postmark and a date of Oct. 17. They all have the same type of letter head, with the American flag as a backdrop to a silhouette of a bald eagle in the upper left corner. The sender swapped out the name of the supervisor of elections depending on which county they were received.

"I've never seen anybody go this far in trying to fake something from this office," said Linda Tanko, a senior elections supervisor in Orange County. "It's mean-spirited and it's causing confusion at a critical point in the election."

The recipients are similar — most are Republican, vote frequently and contribute to campaigns. Jacksonville City Council President Bill Bishop and former U.S. Ambassador John Rood each got one. Republican Charles Callaghan of Ponte Vedra opened his letter Saturday.

"I sat there and actually had to read it a couple times because I didn't understand what it said at first," Callaghan recounted. It claimed to be from the St. Johns County elections supervisor, informing him that he may be ineligible to vote and "registering to vote under fraudulent conditions or swearing a false oath are both third-degree felonies in Florida."

Ion Sancho, Leon County's Supervisor of Elections, told CNN, "I suspect that whoever is sending out these letters has purchased some kind of a donor or campaign list that's given him a group of high-profile Republicans."

The letters inform recipients they have 15 days to fill out a voter eligibility form and return it to the county elections office. If they don't, they'll be removed from the voter rolls, the letter warns.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, blames Gov. Rick Scott's push to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls.

"The state has created a lot of confusion about citizenship and eligibility," Simon said. "No one can be reasonably surprised that people have stepped in to take advantage of the confusion."

Guerra, who said he never misses a vote and contributed $100 to John McCain's 2008 presidential bid, recently re-registered to vote and called Pasco County's Supervisor of Elections office Tuesday after he got his letter. They put out an alert. By then 23 other counties had reported complaints.

Brevard County on Friday was the first to contact the Division of Elections. On Monday, the state alerted all 67 counties after getting more complaints.

A coalition of voting rights advocates said they are concerned.

"Anyone responsible for this blatant attempt to tamper with the votes of Florida citizens and threaten to thwart their right to vote just days before Election Day ought to be brought to justice," said Gihan Perera, Florida New Majority's Executive Director. 

Comments

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Sara Goodman

Where are the ACLU and NAACP now? They are the ones that called in the UN to monitor our elections!

I am sorry, but I would call that reverse racism!

Ellen

@ Sara Goodman Where is the ACLU? According to the article they are blaming the Governor instead of whatever entity sent these letters in an effort to subvert the vote.

Conscious Energy

Sub: Denying the Fundamental Religious Rights, violating the constitution of India by splitting Ananda Marga Dharma Maha Sammelan New Year Celebration dates 30th, 31st Dec. 2012 & 1st January 2013.

Dear All,

Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha (AMPS) is a duly registered Religious Organisation in West Bengal. Even the Supreme Court of India gave Ananda Marga a religious denomination. Ananda Marga was regularly conducting Dharma Maha Cakra/Dharma Maha Sammelan under the guidance of Purodha Pramukha, Spiritual Head of Ananda Marga on 30th, 31st Dec. & 1st January Holy dates only for past 57 years. Even the High Court, Calcutta permitted AMPS to conduct Dharma Maha Sammelan on these dates only at Ananda Nagar, DMS Ground every year. Last year the District Magistrate, Purulia split the New Year Holy dates of Dharma Maha Sammelan, there by no New Year Celebration was conducted by Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha. The defectors (break away group) who were expelled from Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, the defectors who were called as Splinter Group by West Bengal Courts, the Defectors who are facing criminal charges under Section 302 of IPC, the defectors who have no legal Purodha Pramukha, the defectors who have no legal right even to conduct Dharma Maha Sammelan in the name of Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha were given chance to split the Holy dates by Purulia District Magistrate hence no New Year program was conducted last year by us. District Magistrate, Purulia is repeating the same mistake this year also thus hurting the Religious sentiment of millions of followers of Ananda Marga. District Magistrate, Purulia is equating the legal Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha of millions of followers with an illegal defectors group having only a handful of followers. By splitting the New Year Holy dates, the age-old tradition of Ananda Marga New Year Celebration was broken thus violating the constitution of India, which guarantees Religious Rights. Millions of followers of Ananda Marga Religious sentiment got hurt due to splitting of Holy dates resulting in the cancellation of Dharma Maha Sammelan last year. This heinous crime has to be stopped at once. Our request is that let the legal Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha as authorized by Calcutta High Court, be allowed to conduct 2013 New Year Dharma Maha Sammelan on 30th, 31st Dec 2012 & 1st Jan 2013 at Ananda Nagar DMS Ground P.O - Baglata, P.S. – Joypur, District – Purulia (W.B). Please undersigned this message and circulate it, as much as possible and help us to get public support.

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