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‘Put the pressure on’: Florida GOP activist seeks support for FDLE probe of Broward voting

The statewide law enforcement agency faces pressure to get involved while ballots are still being counted.
A group of activists protest in front of the Miami-Date Elections Department, demanding a recount of all ballots from the county's mid-term elections, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS) 1245271
Published Nov. 12, 2018
Updated Nov. 12, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — A local Republican Party leader in Florida wants people to flood the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with demands that the agency launch an investigation of election fraud in Broward County.

No credible allegation of fraud has been made. FDLE, a Cabinet-level agency that is under the supervision of Gov. Rick Scott and three elected Cabinet members, has declined Scott's request to open an investigation, despite Scott's claims of "rampant fraud" in Broward.

That prompted a "deeply troubled" Attorney General Pam Bondi to criticize FDLE for its decision. In a letter dated Sunday to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Bondi wrote: "Your duty to investigate this matter is clear."

Sandra Atkinson, the elected Republican state committeewoman in Okaloosa County in the Panhandle, circulated an email Monday that includes a link to the FDLE comment form on the agency's web site.

In her email, Atkinson said her local congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, "was blocked from even taking video footage of the trucks coming and going from the (Broward) elections office."

"Not sure if this will help but it definitely cannot hurt," Atkinson wrote. "If you're feeling frustrated and helpless, this is something that I feel we can do to possibly get the gears in motion towards justice prevailing.

"Put the pressure on folks. I just emailed him. Will you? Send an email to the state's law enforcement commissioner Richard Swearingen (and) ask/demand him to investigate the rampant reports of voter fraud in Florida's election."

FDLE did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Swearingen's stand could jeopardize his relationships with his bosses. He serves at the pleasure of Scott, Bondi and two other Cabinet members, both of them Republicans, one of whom, CFO Jimmy Patronis, won his election and will remain on the Cabinet for four more years.

The next scheduled meeting of the Florida Cabinet is on Tuesday, Nov. 20. No FDLE-related issues appear on the preliminary agenda.

Coincidentally, that's the same day that Scott and Cabinet members must certify the final official results of the Florida election, if all recounts are completed by then.

Statewide machine recounts began Friday in all 67 counties where the candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner are separated by less than one-half of a percentage point. Hand recounts of ballots are likely in the Senate and agriculture contests.