Protecting Florida’s voters
By Congressmen Alcee L. Hastings and Ted Deutch
When suspicious voter registration forms were recently traced back to a Republican Party vendor, Strategic Allied Consulting (SAC), party officials quickly fired the company and touted that a criminal investigation would uncover and prosecute those found responsible. We agree that anyone found criminally responsible should be prosecuted to the law’s full extent. However, a criminal prosecution of this firm’s workers is not sufficient to protect the integrity of Florida’s voting rolls. A prosecution of a few individuals will not reveal how many faulty registrations were actually filed. A prosecution will not help election supervisors search through thousands of records for fraudulent registrations. And a prosecution will not help Floridians whose addresses, party affiliations, and registrations were tampered with by SAC. A bipartisan task force is needed to investigate the full extent of this fraud and provide elections officials with guidance untainted by political maneuvering.
We were lucky that a vigilant elections worker noticed these particular discrepancies. But how many other times were we not so lucky? In Palm Beach County alone, over 100 registrations are suspected fraudulent. Ten other counties that SAC operated in are now investigating their rolls for improprieties. Just as disturbing is footage of this firm’s employees engaging in questionable voter registration practices nationwide. A few ‘bad apples’ in Florida cannot explain why election officials in Nevada, North Carolina and other states are also investigating SAC’s registration practices. One unscrupulous employee on the ground in Palm Beach County could not have possibly prompted the Republican National Committee to cancel SAC’s multi-state, multi-million dollar contract.
Gov. Rick Scott’s expensive, controversial crusade to find illegal voters has yielded virtually nonexistent results. Of the over 180,000 suspected illegal voters, only 198 possible non-citizens were located, and of them, 159 have never even voted. Gov. Scott has repeatedly argued that we have an obligation to remove ineligible voters from our rolls to protect legally registered voters. We wholeheartedly support this principle, though we disagreed with his hasty and overtly partisan tactics. Now that actual voter registration fraud has been discovered in Florida, Gov. Scott must set aside partisanship and prove that all voter fraud is unacceptable, even when responsibility may ultimately belong to his own party.
We must uncover the scope of these fraudulent registrations and give our election supervisors the resources they need to fix it. Every eligible voter must be able to vote in November with total trust in our election results. Trust in our democracy is what holds our country together. Voters trust that political parties are not gaming elections in their favor. Americans trust that their elected officials will act in the best interests of their constituents. When these trusts are breached, voters have a right to know. Given the partisan nature of this registration fraud, we need a bipartisan task force to determine the scope of this scandal and remedy the damage done to any of our voters. To accomplish that, both parties must work together, and quickly.
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, and Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, represents Florida’s 23rd District in Congress.
Rep. Ted Deutch, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, represents Florida’s 19th district in Congress.