Elections officials in Manatee, Florida continue to investigate hoax letters

MANATEE -- Local elections officials have not established whether any particular group of voters were targeted with fake letters questioning their eligibility, they said Wednesday.

Asked if he had any theories about who the fake letters were being sent to, Manatee Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said, “I really don’t.”

He has been checking whether voters of a certain political party received fraudulent letters, many of which bear postmarks from Washington state, but he said he does not have enough data to conclude anything.

The office of Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent Wednesday reported similar results, saying no pattern has emerged.

Statewide, a significant majority of the letters were sent to Republicans, but some Democrats received them as well, said Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Department of State, which is investigating the matter along with law enforcement agencies.

Late Wednesday, Cate said two more counties had reported that voters had received fake missives; it brought the total number of counties affected to 28 statewide.

They include Bay, Brevard, Broward, Collier, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia.

Beginning earlier this week, elections officials said they got complaints from local voters who had received official-looking, but fake, letters questioning their eligibility.

The letters said the local supervisor of elections had received information regarding the voter’s citizenship status, “bringing into question your eligibility as a registered voter.”

The letters advised recipients to fill out an attached “Voter Eligibility Form,” or be removed within 15 days from the voter rolls.

Anyone receiving such a letter should call Sweat’s office at 941-741-3823, or Florida’s voter fraud hotline at 1-877-868-3737.