Oct. 2, 2012 -- A GOP-backed consulting firm may have submitted "hundreds" of faked voter registration forms in Florida, according to the Florida Department of State.
The GOP cut ties with the third party voter registering company Strategic Allied Consultants on Thursday after the Palm Beach County elections supervisor flagged 106 of the firm's registration forms for having similar handwriting, incorrect addresses and incomplete information.
Since then, elections officials in nine Florida counties have unearthed hundreds of possibly fraudulent registration forms.
Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Department of State, said the state does not yet know the exactly how many forms were allegedly faked. While it is not unusual to get reports of incomplete registration cards, Cate said it is rare for the state to have so many forms with false or wrong information.
"We are concerned about any cases of voter fraud," Cate said. "In this case, it has to do with most allegations regarding bad information on voter applications. We don't know the extent of how it could impact election, but we will let the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determine full extent of the problem."
Strategic Allied Consultants claims the issue stemmed from one employee, who was fired on Sept. 15, but county election officials claim the fraud was more widespread, stretching across counties that are more than 500 miles apart.
"I don't subscribe to the theory that this was the action of one single individual who was able to get into more than half a dozen counties from one end of Florida to the other," said Paul Lux, the Okaloosa County Election Supervisor.
Lux said that out of 2,200 forms that Strategic Allied workers submitted, he and his staff have found about three dozen that appear to be faked. Some have signatures that do not match the names; others are only partially completed and a handful of forms have addresses that do not exist, he said.
"The problem is when you pay someone to do something like this, it kind of lends itself to what do you do to get paid?" Lux said.
The Republican Party of Florida paid Strategic Allied Consultants $1.3 million to register voters starting in July. State party spokesman Brain Burgess said the Republican National Committee asked the state party to hire the consultants and paid for the firm. Before hiring the consulting group, Burgess said Florida Republicans relied solely on volunteers to register voters.
Burgess said the party first learned about the supposed fraud more than one week after the firm fired one of its Palm Beach area workers for allegedly faking the voter forms.
Two days later the Republican National Committee cut ties with the firm and asked state party officials in four other states to do the same. Strategic Allied Consultants was registering voters on behalf of the RNC in five battleground states: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada.
North Carolina election authorities have flagged five possibly fraudulent forms that the GOP-backed consultant firm submitted. The state's chief election official Gary Bartlett said he believes it was an isolated incident because all five came from the same county.
None of the forms Strategic submitted in Colorado or Virginia have been flagged and the Nevada Secretary of State's office would not confirm or deny whether it was investigating any allegedly fraudulent forms.
A GOP spokesman said the party's partnership with Strategic was the only paid voter registration effort it was doing and that it had planned to wrap up its registration efforts this week, so firing the firm did not cut short its registration drive.
In Santa Rosa County, Fla., elections officials found about 100 questionable forms, as did officials in Palm Beach County. Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach County election supervisor, said she suspected a different person was falsely filling out the forms in her county than the employee who faked the Okaloosa forms.
"The scenarios are a little bit different," Bucher said.
In Palm Beach, for example, some forms listed a commercial address, like a Land Rover dealership, instead of residential addresses.
But while Florida investigates these supposedly fraudulent registrations, election officials said they are not concerned that poorly filed forms will result in fraudulent ballots.
"I think the likelihood of that is very, very slim," Lux said. "At the end of the day we aren't talking about fraudulent people getting on the voter rolls, we are taking about a lot of busy work."