By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — It was just a few months ago that Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, of District 19, was ridiculing claims of voter fraud in Florida elections, accusing Republicans and ballot integrity groups of succumbing to the “voter fraud bogeyman.”
“The story they tell is one of rampant voter fraud that threatens the integrity of our elections and the very foundation of our democracy. It’s a scary story,” Deutch sarcastically stated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2011. “Just imagine, mobs of illegally registered voters entering our poll booths and hijacking our elections.”
To that very end, he penned a letter to Gov. Rick Scott with Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation, staunchly opposing the state’s push to remove ineligible voters from the registration rolls and claiming that voter fraud “did not exist” in the Sunshine State.
But now that suspected voter registration fraud has sprung up in Palm Beach County, tied to a private firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida, Deutch is all too ready to summon the very voter fraud bogeyman he so clearly denounced in public speeches and statements.
“In light of the large and apparently growing voter fraud scandal engulfing the Republican party of Florida,” wrote Deutch to Scott on Monday, “I urge you to immediately appoint a bipartisan task force to investigates these allegations and ensure that the integrity of our voting rolls not be comprised.”
This is a stark contrast to Deutch’s early contention that quibbles about voter fraud were not only overblown, but also part of an organized conspiracy to steal votes from Democratic constituencies.
“It is important to remember, Governor Scott, that Florida has never encountered problems with mass voter fraud,” said Deutch. “The voter fraud bogeyman may be a scary story, but it cannot compare to the very real and very blatant voter suppression efforts of Republican legislatures across America.
“This is a deliberate and ongoing effort to suppress the votes of America’s minorities, seniors, students and other traditionally Democratic voters,” Deutch added.
Deutch’s office refused to comment.
While Deutch may be new to acknowledging voter fraud, some groups have been aiming to highlight and expose the problem for several years.
“It’s fascinating when you see lawmakers who deny voter fraud up until the moment when differing evidence comes to light,” said Logan Churchwell of True the Vote, a nonpartisan voter integrity group based in Houston. “Then they try to exact a political advantage from it, that’s just a sad state of affairs.”
True the Vote has been instrumental in validating voter registration rolls in states across the country, finding numerous examples of citizens registering and voting in two states and ineligible voters somehow finding their way onto the voting rolls. They also educate and inform citizens on how to become poll watchers and volunteers in order to deter fraud.
“If you want red-handed proof that voter fraud is being committed in Florida and elsewhere, it is right here,” said Churchwell, pointing to examples of at least 32 voters who received absentee ballots and voted in both New York and Florida and 34 in Ohio and Florida.
His organization examined sampled portions of the voter rolls in Ohio and New York and found nearly 36,000 residents who also were registered to vote in Florida. Those cases have been forwarded to federal and state authorities.
“It is a real tragedy that a third party is able to find potential cases that are felonies, just by examining the voter rolls,” Churchwell told Florida Watchdog. “And we don’t know if they’re Republicans or Democrats. Frankly, that is not at all our concern.”
Churchwell noted that a majority of the American people agree with keeping fair and legitimate elections, but that is too often lost once political parties take hold of the issue.
“The problem with the debate over voter integrity is everyone is looking at it through partisan lenses,” said Churchwell. “That’s unfortunately where we are right now.”
Yaël Ossowski is Florida Bureau Chief for Watchdog.org. Contact him at Yael@FloridaWatchdog.org.
— Yaël (@YaelOss) September 10, 2012
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