Feb 3, 2012 3 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
LEE COUNTY – Poor record keeping is what’s leading to potential fraud in the elections system. And election supervisors say registering non-citizens will continue until they get more help.
Officials we spoke to say non U.S. citizens are voting in Lee and Collier counties.
“If there is a change by one vote and somebody’s voted that really has no right to be voting,” said Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington.
Nearly 100 registered are now under investigation for possible voter fraud.
“It could change the whole complexion of an election,” Harrington said.
We found those 100 people after reviewing jury excusal forms. We compared the names of those who said they couldn’t serve because they were not U.S. citizens to those listed on Florida’s voter registration rolls.
“I was surprised that there were quite that many,” Harrington said.
So how is this happening?
In some cases, human error got them on the voter rolls.
We found one Naples resident, who clearly marked she was not a U.S. citizen, but was registered anyway.
But the NBC2 Investigators also found many of those registered were signed up while at the Tax Collector’s Office getting a drivers license.
We asked Susan Allen, the Lee County Tax Collector’s Office Customer Service Director, if the system was just based on trust and she answered, “Definitely.”
Up until two years ago, no one asked for proof of citizenship.
Allen: You’re either giving us the birth certificate, a us passport or your naturalization document.
NBC2: So, it’s a lot harder now to lie?
It may be harder now. But since you only have to renew your license every eight years, it’ll take another six to weed out all the non-citizens.
Harrington says what we really need is a national verification system.
“We don’t have any investigative powers or anyway to check this information. As we’re checking them into our system, it would be nice to have that,” she said.
We took that concern to Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.
“So, there is the opportunity to verify, through the social security number when they register and that should be a way of doing it,” he said.
But Harrington says that’s not good enough because voters can register without a social security number – leaving the potential for abuse for years to come.
Based on our investigation, both election offices say they’ll now request copies of every jury excusal form where residents say they can’t serve because they’re not a citizen.
Both the Lee and Collier supervisors of elections sent letters to the people we found asking them to verify citizenship.
We should have an update on that in a few weeks.
While we only looked at Southwest Florida two largest counties, this absolutely affects other counties in the state.
And we’re told the state is looking into implementing a similar policy to compare jury excusal forms with voter rolls at all supervisor of elections offices.