Fraud File: Florida Follies

Florida's elections department opened a statewide investigation into registration problems late Thursday.

“In the last few weeks there's been varying reports coming into six different counties that we know about that voters are either switched against their will, switched unwittingly, registered to vote when they didn’t think they were,” said Tom Berlinger (search), spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (search).

“There have been all kinds of shenanigans that appear to be going on,” Berlinger said.

Florida started early voting Monday and state officials said they have a problem seen in other states — people who are paid for collecting registration forms and are filling out fake ones to make more money.

“Conceivably they could get a $2 check or $2 payment for switching somebody’s party, for signing up a bunch of people to vote. We understand one woman may have signed herself up to vote 15-20 extra times just to get the money,” Berlinger said.

Both parties have been registering voters at a feverish pace. Democrats say Republicans are suddenly seeking to enforce registration rules because many poor people have been registering. Republicans say false registration can lead to illegal votes, thereby penalizing voters of all races and all classes who learn and follow the rules.

The FDLE has received numerous complaints and has launched several investigations related to voting irregularities from the supervisors of elections, the secretary of state's office and private citizens regarding widespread and sometimes organized efforts to commit such fraud.

The FDLE has ongoing investigations in southern, central and northern counties of Florida. Additionally, widespread submissions of suspected fraudulent voter applications have been reported so far in Bay, Alachua and Orange counties.

The state attorney's office in Jacksonville is investigating similar voter fraud issues that may have occurred in their jurisdiction.

— FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.

Scene in the States

Many states are facing legal challenges over possible voting problems Nov. 2. A look at some of the latest developments:

The Latest Reports


Thursday: The secretary of state issued strict guidelines for poll watchers across the state, limiting each party to one person per station and banning outside groups from sending out teams of lawyers to monitor the election. Parties use poll watchers to keep track of turnout and watch how balloting procedures are performed.


Thursday: A federal judge said the state must reject provisional ballots if they are cast in the wrong precinct — another defeat to Democrats who wanted looser requirements. The ruling is in line with one handed down this week by the state Supreme Court in a similar case.

Thursday: Republicans accused Democrats of breaking political money laws in Florida. They said Democrats engaged in cozy arrangements among candidates, unions and outside fund-raising groups as part of an effort to turn out voters. Democrats said the allegation was absurd.

Thursday: Tens of thousands of Florida voters may be illegally registered to vote in two states, and more than 1,600 may have cast ballots in Florida and one of two other states in recent elections, the Orlando Sentinel reported in Friday's editions. The Sentinel examination of voting records from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina found more than 68,000 cases in which voters with the same names and dates of birth were registered in two states.


Thursday: Top elections officials said they were worried about the ramifications of a court ruling this week on how to handle provisional ballots. They are concerned about voter confusion and whether they will have enough time to provide local clerks with the proper Election Day instructions.


Thursday: At least half of North Carolina's National Guard troops in Iraq didn't receive their absentee ballots in time for their votes to be counted, said Lt. Michelle Locke, who helped with voting at a base northeast of Baghdad. Locke, who didn't get her ballot, said troops who wanted to vote in the Nov. 2 general election received special all-write-in ballots that had been sent by the military in case something went wrong.


Thursday: County elections officials say a court battle over the votes of people who go to the wrong polling place has left them unsure how to train poll workers and what to tell voters about where they can cast ballots. Ohio is the site of an intense, back-and-forth legal battle over provisional ballots.


Earlier Reports


Wednesday: A company hired by Denver to print and mail absentee ballots failed to send out about 13,000 ballots, but election officials hoped to get them to voters by the end of the week.


Wednesday: A group of international election observers said in a report that Georgia's electronic voting machines should create paper receipts and poll workers should get more training. The report is the result of a visit to Georgia in September by a 20-member team of civic leaders, professors and lawyers from 15 countries.


Wednesday: The state's top elections official insisted that exit pollers for media outlets must stay 100 feet from the polls to ensure "hassle-free, intimidation-free" voting sites. The law is intended to block partisan activity near the polls, but an attorney for news organizations including The Associated Press questioned why it should apply to the media.


Wednesday: Workers taking part in a Republican-funded voter registration drive said they were told to avoid signing up Democrats or people who might vote for John Kerry. The Republican National Committee denied the accusations and suggested that Democrats were orchestrating the charges.


Wednesday: A health organization that promised flu shots on Election Day in six of South Carolina's poorest counties has drawn criticism from Republicans that the effort is politically motivated. The GOP says some of the targeted counties are Democratic-leaning. The organization denied the allegations and said the mailing was sent to areas with low vaccination rates based on federal data.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.