110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Oct 29, 2012 - 10:25:21am
The FBI has been called in to investigate fraudulent letters that tell voters they may not be eligible to vote because their U.S. citizenship status is in question, and they could go to prison if they vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, local elections supervisors and the U.S. Postal Service have joined forces to investigate the letters, which were printed on paper with official-looking elections letterheads, and were mailed from Seattle.
"We are aware of 28 counties where fraudulent letters have been sent, which represents between 50 and 100 recipients," Florida Department of State Communications Director Chris Cate said.
In Volusia County, Elections Supervisor Ann McFall said five of the letters had been reported as of the evening of Oct. 25.
She provided a copy of one of the letters. It stated that the "County Supervisor of Elections has received information from the Florida Division of Elections regarding your citizenship status, bringing into question your eligibility as a registered voter," and goes on to say that "registering to vote under fraudulent conditions or swearing a false oath are both third degree felonies in Florida."
If the information is false, the voter is told to bring a document proving U.S. citizenship to the supervisor of elections.
Though initial reports indicated that all the letters were sent to Republicans, "Democrats and voters with no party affiliation have also received letters," Cate said.
He said that anyone who receives such a letter should contact the local elections supervisor. In Volusia County, call McFall at 386-736-5930.
FBI spokesman David Couvertier of the Tampa regional office said if the letter is determined to be false, the voter should hang on to the letter and call the FBI. Volusians should call the Jacksonville Division at 904-248-7000.
Meanwhile, voters are still reporting headaches with absentee ballots. Many voters who requested absentee ballots are just getting them; some have received duplicate absentee ballots, and some still have not received absentee ballots.
A vendor hired to print and mail the ballots this year got them out late, then sent them to the wrong postal center, McFall said, and the ballots were starting to be delivered Oct. 15.
Emma Brinkley, wife of the Rev. Carl Brinkley, known to many in West Volusia, is vice chair of the Democratic Executive Committee in Volusia County.
She had put in a request for an absentee ballot back in June. When it hadn't arrived around the end of September, Emma Brinkley requested a duplicate ballot. The original and duplicate ballots arrived the middle of October; then a third ballot arrived. Other people had not requested duplicate ballots but got them, Brinkley said.
She said she returned the second ballot to the Elections Office, where a worker seemed unconcerned about having it returned. She said she will use the third one as an educational tool to show people how to mark ballots.
McFall said, "The multiple ballots are due to people being anxious in not receiving their ballot. We issue a replacement ballot."
There are no concerns about the extra ballots giving a voter the opportunity to vote more than once, McFall said. "The first one we receive back is the only one that will be counted. The person's record is then frozen until the next election."
Brinkley said she is worried that around 15 senior citizens with whom she has spoken have not received any absentee ballots yet, though they have requested duplicate ballots.
"I'm really concerned about the seniors. They're strong voters," she said.
According to the state Division of Elections website, all requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 general election should have been mailed by Oct. 9.
The last day the Elections Office can mail absentee ballots is Wednesday, Oct. 31, so voters who have requested but haven't yet received an absentee ballot should call the Elections Office immediately. People who cannot get to the polling places might otherwise lose their chance to vote.
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