Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Land O'Lakes man says paperwork mistake made him target of voter purge

Peter Muellerleile was living in Toronto as a teenager when his family won a vacation to Florida in 1969.

"They loved it so much, we came down again for a summer vacation the next year," he said. "They said, 'Let's pack up, let's move to Florida.' We've lived here ever since."

But he never became a U.S. citizen. Now the Canadian national living in Land O'Lakes is one of the faces of the state's controversial effort to strip suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls.

Muellerleile, 54, became a voter in 2006 but never cast a ballot. He acknowledges he shouldn't have been on the rolls, but said it was a mistake. He also said the so-called "voter purge" has been a bureaucratic nightmare that made him feel like the subject of a witch hunt.

"It seemed more malicious than something they were just trying to clear up," he said. "I felt more targeted than reviewed."

It all started with an April 20 letter sent to Muellerleile by Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. Gov. Rick Scott's administration had just sent county election officials nearly 2,700 names of suspected noncitizens on the voter rolls. That effort stopped weeks later after some bona fide citizens were spooked by similar letters, and critics called the process voter suppression.

But Muellerleile agreed with the letter. Ten days later, he responded with his own letter: "I have NEVER attempted to vote or register to vote in any county or state in the U.S." He asked to be taken off the rolls immediately. He was.

The story doesn't end there.

Two weeks after his response, Corley's office sent him another letter saying he had "been convicted of a felony and (is) not eligible to vote."

"I've had a few speeding tickets, but good God, that's ridiculous," he said. "That's blatant made up crap. How do you get away with that?" (Corley said his office intended to send a simple confirmation letter and that the felon letter was erroneous.)

Then, in July, an investigator from the Pasco-Pinellas state attorney's office met Muellerleile at his home. He said the mistake happened when he was renewing his driver's license. The investigator showed him a copy of the renewal form with a mark next to "U.S. Citizen."

"Apparently there was a smudge or an 'x' by the 'Are you a voter' question," he said. "You clearly couldn't say there was an intended marking by that box. It basically was a blob."

Muellerleile told the investigator: "It wasn't me, I made no attempt to do it." He recalled the investigator saying, "If you're telling me you made no attempt to do it and have no intention to do it, then the case is closed."

An official at the state attorney's office could not confirm the details of Muellerleile's case Friday afternoon.

Illegally registering to vote — even if you don't cast a ballot — is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Corley said he had authorities review the case for several reasons. First, Muellerleile was listed as a registered Democrat. Picking a party is "an extra step in the process," he said. Plus, Corley's office sent Muellerleile several sample ballots and other voter information mailings, and he never asked to be taken off the rolls.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found three license applications that list Muellerleile as a citizen. Only in 2011 was his status correctly changed to permanent legal resident.

"It doesn't change the fact that he was registered," Corley said. "There was some evidence to suggest at a minimum of review that he illegally registered to vote."

Muellerleile has lived in America for four decades. There's a stars and stripes decoration outside his front door. He's married to an American, has two American children and considers himself an American as well.

So why didn't he ever become a citizen? "The situation never presented itself where it was an issue," he said.

"Ironically, I am very much into the political views of things," he said. "The actual going and casting a ballot is something I haven't done. I just never put the 'x' on the spot."

News researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by the how the Florida black bear roamed — and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of ...
Published: 04/22/18
Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Updated: 4 hours ago