Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

FBI launches investigation into fraudulent Florida voter letters

TAMPA — The FBI confirmed Wednesday it is investigating fraudulent letters that falsely tell eligible Florida voters they may no longer be U.S. citizens and that they could go to prison if they cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 election.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which launched an investigation Tuesday, the Department of State, local supervisors of elections and the U.S. Postal Service will assist the FBI, said agency spokesman David Couvertier.

"We're trying to figure out what the trend is, if a specific group of voters was targeted or if it was random," Couvertier said. "What was the motive? Was it a statement or something done to influence the election?"

Beginning Friday, voters throughout the state started receiving letters in envelopes with a Seattle postmark. The letters all have the same type of letterhead, with the American flag as a backdrop to a silhouette of a bald eagle in the upper left corner. The sender swapped out the name of the supervisor of elections depending on which county they were received. As of Wednesday, the letters were sent to at least 28 counties, according to Division of Elections spokesman Chris Cate.

The letters inform recipients they have 15 days to fill out a voter eligibility form and return it to the elections office. If they don't, they'll be removed from the voter rolls, the letter warns.

State officials have interpreted the letters to be a voter intimidation tactic, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail for each offense, or each letter sent. The FBI would examine federal offenses, including mail fraud.

"We don't know the extent of the activity yet," Couvertier said. "We're looking at everything from civil rights violations to potentially voter fraud and everything in between."

Couvertier said the Tampa FBI office is working in concert with the other agencies. It covers 18 counties, including Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas, all of which got the letters.

Cate said the best estimate of the number of letters sent are "dozens." The recipients so far tend to be Republican, frequent voters, who may even contribute to campaigns. Ion Sancho, Leon County's supervisor of elections, has speculated that the names may have been lifted from a donor list. Jacksonville City Council president Bill Bishop, former U.S. Ambassador John Rood, and Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, all got one.

But there are exceptions. Of the eight people to receive the letters in Pinellas, half are Republican.

The hoax is a puzzling one. If the letters were meant to intimidate people from voting, why were they sent to leaders of the Republican Party, where they're easier to detect?

"There are a lot of theories out there," Couvertier said. "We'll be going through them one by one."

Anyone who got a letter is asked to call the Tampa FBI field office at 1-866-838-1153.

Comments
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18