Gov. Rick Scott and his Department of State have been talking about voter fraud in Florida since 2011, shortly after Scott took office. “We need to have fair elections,” Scott said Monday, justifying the identification of more than 2,600 “noncitizens” that the state recently urged county supervisors of elections to purge from the voter rolls. That followed a 2011 legislative rewrite of the election law, again in the name of preventing fraud. “When you go out to vote, you want to make sure that the other individuals that are voting have a right to vote,” Scott added. But notwithstanding the concerns of Scott and Republican legislators, state records show that voter fraud simply hasn’t been a problem for the past decade.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 178 cases of alleged voter fraud have been referred to the department since 2000. FDLE’s spreadsheet showed 11 arrests, but that apparently didn’t include a 2009 bust of ACORN registration volunteers in Miami-Dade that yielded seven convictions and sentences ranging from probation to 72 days in jail. “It’s just not widespread,” said Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections and the supervisor for Martin County. Added Mary Cooney, public-services director for the Broward Elections Office: “While there may have been complaints about perceived voter fraud, I am not aware of any actual cases which were turned over to law enforcement.”
The last big voter-fraud case goes back to Miami city elections in 1997. Law enforcement seized 5,000 absentee ballots, claiming that then-required witness signatures on the ballots had been forged. Forty-five people were charged, and a city commissioner went to jail. But the law was changed in 2004 to remove that signature requirement — and since then, there have been no prosecutions for absentee-ballot fraud.