By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE — A Texas-based watchdog known as True the Vote is staying one step ahead of Florida’s elections officials.
The organization has identified 173 cases of alleged interstate voter fraud, or double voting, in Florida and Maryland, the group announced Monday.
Each case represents a single person voting in both states during the same federal election cycle, dating to 2006.
“The 173 cases does not mean 173 illegal votes,” said Logan Churchwell, communications director for True the Vote, a nonpartisan voters’ rights and election integrity group. “It means at least double that.”
The group used updated 2012 voting data to cross-reference Florida and Maryland registration lists. Maryland is the latest state under review in what Churchwell described as the “snow bird” project.
Using names, dates of birth, residential addresses and federal voting information, True the Vote has already identified potential double voting abuses in Florida by way of Ohio (534 cases), New York (32) and Rhode Island (2), as of October last year.
True the Vote submits its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice and state elections officials for further investigation.
Florida Watchdog contacted the Florida Department of State Division of Elections for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Voter fraud is a third-degree felony in Florida and carries a maximum penalty of $5,000 and five years in prison.
In a news release, Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, said double voting is attributable to the fragility of our absentee voting systems.
For various reasons, including convenience, absentee ballot voting has increased in Florida in recent years, though proper safeguards are still being debated.
“Voter ID can’t do anything against an absentee ballot fraud case because it’s all done in the mail,” said Churchwell.
As previously reported, absentee balloting, or vote by mail, was the focus of a grand jury report led by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle after irregularities were found in the area’s 2012 elections.
The report highlighted several clear violations and the rise of absentee ballot voting in general in Miami-Dade County — 27 percent of the total 885,067 votes in November, as opposed to 7 percent in 2000.
True the Vote’s recent findings show the highest instances of absentee ballot interstate fraud occurring in Escambia, Clay, Duval, Pinellas and Volusia counties.
According to Pew Research, 2.75 million Americans were registered to vote in more than one state last year. But that does not mean they committed fraud.
Still, for those like Wendy Rosen, the temptation to double vote could be hard to resist.
Rosen ran for a seat in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District last year but ended her campaign less than two months before the general election when it became known the Maryland resident also voted in Florida.
Churchwell said True the Vote will continue to offer Florida and other states assistance even if they don’t get credit. “It’s a bipartisan issue, and the absentee voting system is only as good as the list maintenance process is,” he said.
Updated as of 5:07pm. A spokesman for the Division of Elections said in an email that,”The division is reviewing the files.”
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