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State officials skipped interviewing key witnesses in GOP voter registration fraud case

TALLAHASSEE — Criminal investigators couldn't find a better witness than Jeff Jewett.

Last year, Jewett was the field coordinator for a private vendor used by the Republican Party of Florida in Jacksonville, overseeing a staff of 32 people registering voters. He discovered that one of his employees turned in seven bogus forms: fake addresses, non-working phone numbers, multiple signatures made in the same handwriting. He fired the employee, contacted elections officials and turned in the counterfeit forms.

Jewett's tip launched voter registration fraud case JA-32-0001 that would take Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents three months to close. The employee, a University of North Florida college student, admitted to investigators that he forged the forms. Because he had no criminal history, he got probation and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

Case closed, right?

Sure, except for one thing.

Jewett, the one who reported the crime, the one who supervised the employee and could best inform investigators if this was an isolated case or was more systemic, was never interviewed.

"I was surprised," Jewett said. "I figured they'd be interested in talking to me considering I was the one who turned him in."

Such a lack of initiative is baffling for an investigation into a crime that Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers had made a top priority in prosecuting and preventing. In the 18 months leading to last year's presidential campaign, they said the specter of voter registration fraud was so great that it was necessary to push for a purge of ineligible voters and a new law that made it harder to register voters.

Story here