Democrat blows whistle on major ballot-harvesting scheme in Florida as state opens criminal probe
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republicans who run the state announced earlier this year they weren't going to put up with any election shenanigans heading into the 2022 midterms and beyond, they meant it.
DeSantis' brand-new election crimes unit is recommending that state police launch a full criminal probe following a Democrat whistleblower's very detailed complaint alleging a long-running, and widespread, ballot harvesting operation among black communities within a politically important region of central Florida, Just the News reports
"Former Orange County Commissioner candidate Cynthia Harris filed a sworn affidavit in late August with the Secretary of State's office alleging that illegal operations to collect third-party ballots have been going on for years in the Orlando area where voting activists are paid $10 for each ballot they collect," the report stated.
"She described an intricate system funded by liberal leaning organizations that dispatch ballot brokers into black communities to pressure voters to turn over their ballots. The $10 fee per ballot is divvied up among the parties who help complete the harvesting," the outlet's report added. "The collection and delivery of ballots by third parties is illegal in Florida."
The new Florida Office of Election Crimes and Security made a preliminary inquiry regarding the allegations and found that there was plenty of evidence to warrant a full-scale criminal probe by police, the Florida State Department told Just the News
"The Florida Department of State, Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) was made aware of this issue around September 1, 2022," the department said in a statement, according to Just the News
. "After further inquiry, OECS received additional information related to the allegation on October 17, 2022, and performed a preliminary investigation.
"Since OECS is an investigative entity and does not [have] authority to make arrests, the office forwarded the complaint to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for possible violation of section 104.0616, Florida Statutes," the agency added.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told the outlet last week that it "has received a complaint regarding alleged ballot harvesting in Orange County, which is currently under review to determine if an investigation is warranted."
Harris, who barely lost her election for county commissioner in August, described the practice to the outlet, which she says she has witnessed firsthand for years. That includes recording a ballot harvester who came to her home in 2017 and being able to obtain a script given to the harvester by her supervisors showing her how to make a pitch to voters so they'll hand over their ballots.
"So what happens is in our community when absentee ballots are mailed, you the candidate or any political party can find out when the absentee ballots are mailed and to whom -- what happens is these ballot harvesters, they know which batch has gone out, they go to the door, and they ask you for your absentee ballot," Harris said.
"Well, in communities that don't look like me, no one does this," she said, referring to white neighborhoods. "But in our community, it's kind of like an accepted practice
that the man is coming by to pick up my absentee ballot or the lady is coming to pick up my absentee ballot."
In a sworn affidavit, Harris names certain individuals who serve as ballot brokers and who were also paid to collect ballots, while also providing investigators with several details about how the system allegedly works. She also passed along other evidence including emails and receipts.
"Ballot brokers typically work up to a year in advance," she said. "Ballot brokers visit individuals in their residences and assists the individual with filling out a request for a mail-in ballot. After the mail-in ballot arrives, the voter is instructed to wait for the ballot broker to return to the individual's residence. They are asked to not seal the certificate envelope."
"In rare circumstances, if the voter has filled out the ballot and sealed the envelope certificate, the ballot broker will take the ballot and then steam open the sealed envelope," the affidavit added. "The ballot broker will either correct any votes
, if necessary, that were not voted according to their wishes or just throw them out."