TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began an investigation Wednesday into alleged fraud involving a company hired by the state’s Republican Party to register voters.
The agency said it received a complaint from the Florida Division of Elections about suspicious forms submitted in several counties and determined that Strategic Allied Consulting should be investigated. The agency said it wouldn’t comment further until the investigation is complete.
“We fully support the investigation and we believe that anyone who files a falsified voter registration form should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said state GOP spokesman Brian Burgess. “In fact, we asked for this investigation.”
The state party fired the company after reports of several dozen suspicious forms being turned in. The company was paid at least $1.3 million for the work and also was hired by Republicans in other presidential battleground states. Since the Florida problems, state Republican Parties in North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia have also fired the company, which has stood by the quality of its work.
A spokesman for the company said it would cooperate with any investigation.
“It’s very possible that here and there, sporadically, a couple of employees didn’t follow the rules,” said David Leibowitz. “It’s a massive operation and some people in any massive operation are not going to follow the rules.”
He said of 50,000 registration cards turned in by people hired by the company, only about 150 have been questioned.
The state Democratic Party said the Florida GOP also should be investigated.
“With almost 30 days until Election Day and six days before book closing, Florida voters, election administrators and law enforcement officials need to know the facts. The Florida GOP owes the people of this state a clear explanation. If they refuse to come clean it is incumbent on the Division of Elections to investigate” the state’s Republican Party, said spokeswoman Brannon Jordan.
The state GOP said it hired the company at the suggestion of the Republican National Committee. An elections supervisor in Palm Beach County first noticed irregularities with more than 100 forms. Since then, problems have been reported in other counties.
In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to “willfully submit” any false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
In recent years, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature _ citing suspicious voter registration forms turned in by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN _ has cracked down on groups holding voter registration drives.
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