Florida's poor reputation on elections and voting rights will continue as long as state leaders ignore an anemic investigation into voter registration fraud. While Gov. Rick Scott instigated a flawed purge of voter rolls prior to the 2012 election and the Legislature clamped down on voter registration drives, Republican leaders appear disinterested in a solid case of voter fraud.
State Rep. Darryl Rouson, whose St. Petersburg-centered district includes portions of Manatee and Sarasota counties, issued a statement Tuesday seeking legislative hearings on whether the governor is stifling a criminal investigation. Rouson, who will become the leader of House Democrats after the 2014 election, has good reason to be outraged.
In the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into voter registration fraud by a vendor hired by the Republican Party of Florida, two former employees of Strategic Allied Consulting admitted forging forms. Both served probation. The state party fired the vendor.
But state investigators failed to interview their supervisors -- including the whistleblower -- before closing the probe in January. FDLE did not even release that information to the media until March. Is there a cover-up? Is the state's leading law enforcement agency engaging in politics?
The governor and Legislature leaders were intent on purging the system of fraud but mum's the word now. When asked in late June whether he reviewed the investigation, Scott replied with one word: No.
The governor launched his now discredited voter purge despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud. Now with concrete proof, he can't even read the FDLE report.
Rouson's letter states:
"The governor, at a recent press conference in June, said that he had not seen or read any reports from his own agency. It is widely believed that a full-faith investigation has not taken place.
"The Legislature is constitutionally tasked with the checks and balances of government. Given that the governor has had adequate time to respond to the FDLE reports and has ordered an inadequate investigation, the House needs to task a committee with holding hearings. Floridians deserve to know if the governor's office has stifled a law enforcement investigation."
Yes, indeed, this needs a thorough hearing.
Why wasn't whistleblower Jeff Jewett interviewed? Why wasn't Ray Robbins, another supervisor in the consulting firm's Jacksonville office, interviewed either? He estimated 20 percent of voter forms were forged, the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reported several weeks ago.
The FDLE also revealed then that the agency had closed a case out of Lee and Charlotte counties involving Strategic Allied Consulting where 11 voter registration forms were verified as fraudulent. Yet there were no arrests and again investigators failed to interview supervisors.
The governor's double standard on voter fraud merits a deep look as does the FDLE's shallow investigations.