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FDLE opens criminal probe into GOP voter registration forms

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Wednesday that it is launching a criminal investigation into voter registration forms filed by a GOP vendor, Strategic Allied Consulting.

On Friday, Florida Department of State sent the FDLE registration forms filed by the Republican Party of Florida that were deemed to be suspicious by elections supervisors in several Florida counties. The FDLE spent Monday and Tuesday reviewing the forms to determine if there was any evidence of illegal activity.

"Following the review, there was criminal predicate," said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. “There was a possibility that crimes were committed.”

Submitting false voter registration information is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Questionable forms in a dozen counties, spanning from South Florida to the Panhandle, have turned up that suggest fraud on a wide scale. Many were incomplete, at least one was registered to a dead person, and some in Palm Beach County included addresses for voters that were business locations, such as a gas station, a Land Rover dealership and a Port Everglades administrative office.

Upon learning of the defective registration forms, the state Republican parties in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia fired Strategic Allied Consulting on Sept. 25, and the Republican Party of Florida filed an election fraud complaint last week against the firm that is now part of the criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The FDLE is still reviewing a second set of voter registration forms it received from the Department of State on Friday. Three forms were flagged on Sept. 12 by Miami-Dade that were filed by the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States. These forms had similar handwriting for three different registrants, said Christina White, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade office.

There’s been no determination that there was criminal misconduct with those forms.

“They’re still under review,” Plessinger said.

Camila Gallardo, a La Raza spokeswoman, said no one from FDLE or the Department of State has contacted her non-partisan, non-profit group. Until she hears anything, she said they are researching the three forms in question.

“They appear to belong to three family members,” Gallardo said. “We are proactively doing our own due diligence to provide any needed information and resolve this swiftly.”

Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said his office hasn’t received any other complaints about La Raza. By contrast, a dozen counties have complained about forms filed by the Republican Party of Florida.

On Tuesday, Bennett Miller, the assistant general council for the Department of State, sent an e-mail to all 67 county supervisors of elections instructing them to review all the voter registration forms filed by the RPOF.

“Please limit access to the registrations to yourselves and a trusted member of your staff,” Miller said in the e-mail. “At some point, these registrations may become evidence used in court, so it is important for you to take steps to protect them from tampering.”

Counties now must go back and review the forms that have been filed by the RPOF, which many have already started doing.

--Mike Van Sickler