Feds to probe possible voter fraud in Florida

Residents receiving false letters questioning citizenship, officials say

ORLANDO, Fla. - Officials in Florida have issued a statewide warning about a new trick trying to prevent voters from going to the polls.

Voters are getting letters that look like they are from local elections offices, questioning their citizenship. But Local 6 has learned the letters are fake, and they are going out across Central Florida and many other parts of the state.

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Officials on Monday said voters who had received the letters thus far are white, registered Republicans who consistently vote in elections.

"This is a major concern," said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, who received a letter from a voter mailed from Seattle with no return address. "You should not expect a letter from your elections office saying, 'You're not registered to vote, please don't go to the polls.' That's ridiculous."

On Tuesday, the state of Florida said there have been reports from more than 20 counties where voters have received fraudulent letters impersonating supervisors of elections.

"We are working with the state's supervisors of elections as well as law enforcement to find the source of these letters and put a stop to them. We have provided all of the information we have received to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," said Chris Cate, communications director for the Florida Department of State.  "We have no tolerance for voter fraud or intimidation, and any attempts at fraud or intimidation will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible."

Inside the letter is the resident's supervisor of election's name, the resident's name and address, and a warning that doubts the voter's citizenship, saying the resident is not eligible to vote unless a letter is returned in an enclosed form within 15 days.

"It creates confusion, it's just a big distraction," said Linda Tanko of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, which has received multiple letters.

Some voters said it's easy to be fooled.

"It looks official," a Central Florida resident said.

"I would think they were full of it because I would ask for someone to prove it," said another voter when showed a copy of the fraudulent letter.

East Naples resident Wayne Hoss said he received his letter on Saturday and immediately knew it was a hoax because he was born in the United States.  Hoss says the letter included a form seeking personal information, including his Social Security and driver's license numbers.

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"Elections season is a time when voters need to be vigilant and report suspicious activity. Any potential cases of voter fraud or intimidation, whether it's through a phone call, a letter or someone on the street, needs to be reported. Anyone who receives one of these fraudulent letters should contact their county supervisor of elections," Cate said.

The Florida Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating. Voter fraud is a third-degree felony, punishable with up to a 5 year prison sentence.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

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