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Jury excusals may reveal non-citizen voters in Manatee

MANATEE -- Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat Monday said he is checking to make sure that those excused from jury duty because they are not U.S. citizens are not also listed on local voters’ rolls.

Sweat intended to ask R.B. “Chips” Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, for a list of jury excusals in an effort to cross-check the names.

“If they said they were not citizens, the first thing I would do is check with immigration, not just take them off the rolls,” said Sweat. “We would want some definite proof.”

Only those who are U.S. citizens and residents of Manatee County are eligible to vote here, Sweat said.

He had received an email earlier in the day from a local resident asking if the two lists are compared in Manatee County.

The email was linked to a report from a Fort Myers television station, which compared jury excusal forms and voter registration rolls in two counties it covers. The station found 87 people on both lists, according to its website.

“I would think if somebody said they could not serve because they were not a citizen here, they (someone) would notify me,” Sweat said, but he noted that he had no guarantee he would be informed.

In a handful of cases each year, there are reports of voters who are not citizens, Sweat said. Sometimes, it’s U.S. immigration officers who find a voter registration card in the pocket of someone they have detained, Sweat said. “But as far as a widespread number of people like that, I don’t know,” Sweat said. “But we can track it by the methodology we have.” Shore said his staff would have to compile such a list manually.

He was puzzled as to how ineligible people could be voting because, he said, “the state is supposed to have already checked” whether or not they’re citizens.

Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent Monday also sought names dating to 2004 of those who had indicated on jury excusal forms they were not U.S. citizens.

“We are going to research with our list, and compare those, and will take action if there is evidence there are folks that are registered to vote that may not be U.S. citizens,” she said.

“We’re following up, we’re taking it very seriously,” she continued. “I’ve also contacted our tax collector, explaining the situation and showing the two different TV clips, and asking how to work together to help eliminate it if it is indeed happening here.”

Palmetto resident David Kraner’s name was on an e-mail message about the subject.

He said he had relayed information sent by a cousin in Fort Myers to local officials.

“My goodness gracious, with the franchise we have to vote here, I want them to legally vote,” said Kraner, who is chairman of the board at the Manatee School for the Arts. “I don’t care what party.”

He said he had known someone many years ago that voted both in her home state and here, too.

“Isn’t that scary?” he said. “It was a long, long time ago, but we all know it can be decided by a few votes.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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