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State Net Capitol Journal: Surprising Election Fraud Scandal Surfaces In Florida

It has usually been Democrats who have been accused, mostly by Republicans, of doing little to deter voter fraud - or worse. In a recent op-ed piece on CNN's Website, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, went as far as to say, "Democrats know they benefit from election fraud."

But the tables turned last month when news broke that suspicious voter registration forms submitted by a company under contract with the Republican Party of Florida, had turned up in Palm Beach County. The number of affected counties quickly grew to a dozen, and the scandal has since spread to other states, including Colorado and Nevada.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced last week it was launching a criminal investigation into the matter, after reviewing registration forms filed by Strategic Allied Consulting that were deemed suspicious by elections supervisors. Many of the forms were incomplete, some included addresses for voters that were locations of businesses, including a gas station and a Land Rover dealership, and at least one included the information of an individual who was deceased.

"Following the review, there was criminal predicate," said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. "There was a possibility that crimes were committed."

Upon learning of the questionable registration forms, the state Republican parties in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia promptly fired Strategic Allied Consulting, and the Republican Party of Florida also filed an election fraud complaint against the firm.

But top Democrats say the reputation of the veteran GOP consultant who owns Strategic Allied Consulting, Nathan Sproul, was hardly unknown to Republicans before this scandal. He gained national attention during the 2004 election, when he was under contract with the RNC and a canvasser working for one of his firms in Oregon told a TV news reporter he'd thrown away Democratic registrations, an allegation that was also made by a disgruntled Sproul employee in Nevada to CBS news and other outlets.

"I have grave concerns not just about the Republican National Committee's decision to retain this company, but also about what the company has allegedly done," U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Maryland) said in a statement. "Contrary to a 'zero-tolerance' policy, it appears that the RNC knew exactly what it was doing when it hired this company as the only one it uses to conduct this kind of work across the country."

Officials at Strategic Allied Consulting counter that Sproul was never charged on the 2004 allegations. And Sproul's lawyer, David Leibowitz, said he expects a similar outcome this time.

"There were a couple thousand contractors doing this across Florida," he said. "There were bound to be some problems. I agree, the allegations keep coming up. But essentially, the findings are groundless." (MIAMI HERALD, NEW YORK TIMES)  

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