Washington County Reports Petition Fraud

By: Hermelinda Vargas
By: Hermelinda Vargas

Election season is a time for voters to make themselves heard. It is also a time for con artists to try their luck at fraud. Several Florida counties are reporting fraudulent petitions filed with its supervisor of elections office, and it's happened in the Panhandle too.

Undercover state video allegedly shows con artists using deception to gather petition signatures. Supervisor of Elections Carol Griffin says similar deception has happened here too in Washington County.

"The names as printed are people that we do have registered to vote. Their addresses match those names, but when we go down a step further, the date of birth is not even close at all. The signature doesn't match."

The fraudulent petition has to do with an initiative for a sales tax exemption. Only about half of about 300 petition forms submitted to Griffin's office in support of that initiative actually match voter registration records.

"We want to protect the integrity of the process. When people try to pull off these shenanigans it's very frustrating and I do encourage our law enforcement agencies to prosecute these people."

Griffin says she doesn't believe the sponsors of the petition are responsible for the fraud. Instead she blames petition signature collectors looking to make a fast buck.

"They hire these people to go out and retrieve these signatures and pay them on a name-per-name basis and I believe that opens the door wide open for fraud."

Washington County's Sheriff's Department and Chipley police are now investigating the matter. Griffin and other election supervisors are urging anyone whose name may have been used fraudulently to contact their office.


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