DAYTONA BEACH, FL - A criminal investigation was initiated by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney. Search Warrants were served to Daytona Beach public officials in response to an informal complaint filed by the Supervisor of Elections, Ann McFall.
During a routine check, McFall discovered that a large number of absentee ballots were requested from a single email address. Under state law, only the voter or one of their family members can request a ballot and the requests involved people who weren't related according to McFall.
The email address was traced back to the Zone 5 District in Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Derrick Henry's zone. In the election, Henry won the August 24 Primary by an unprecedented landslide.
McFall said she spoke to some of those voters who said they had not emailed a request for ballots.
Further investigation revealed that the computer used was traced back to Commissioner Henry.
Each of the illegally-obtained ballots is a felony and carries five years in prison.
Zone 5 also happens to be the zone of former Commissioner Dwayne Taylor, who now serves in the Florida State Legislature. Taylor was enbroiled in several controversial issues during his stint in the Daytona beach City Commission (See Dwayne Taylor seeks election for the Florida Legislature and Daytona Public Officials Conflict of Interest: Shiver and Taylor.)
Given the massive corruption that has permeated Daytona Beach Government and the high level of impunity that has been enjoyed by the perpetrators and their beneficiaries, voter fraud is indicative of the local election process, where in the past even Mayors have been literally appointed by special interests to pass specific ordinances or approve leases and sales of property at advantageous terms, harming the city and its taxpayers along the way.
These special interests are widely known in the city as "The Untouchables", "The Daytona Capos", "The Bigwigs" "The Five Families" and other appellations, referring to a small group of multimillionaires that exert control over the City Commission and City Government at will. Just a phone call from one of these individuals is enough to get a special ordinance or land divestiture approved or the funding of a personal indulgence, often to the detriment of the city. To date, it is estimated that over half a billion dollars have been funneled by the city to special interests in various schemes.
"It's very serious. If nothing is done about this one, what's going to be the next step?
What is another candidate going to try to get away with?"Ann McFall
Supervisor of Elections
Some of the tactics employed in voter fraud and perpetrated by individuals associated with a special interest supporter of a candidate include Pressuring and coaxing first-time voters or those who were “less informed or lacking in knowledge of the voting process, the infirm, the poor, and those with limited skills in the English language” to vote by absentee ballot; Paying voters in cash for casting absentee ballots; Instructing people applying for absentee ballots to phone the candidate's campaign when the applicant received his or her ballot so that the candidate's supporters could go to the applicant's home and “though not authorized by law to do so, ‘assist’ the voter in completing the ballot;” Illegally keeping a stockpile of unmarked absentee ballots and delivering ballots to voters; Lying about whether the person applying for an absentee ballot would in fact be absent on the day of the primary.
Voter Fraud is hard to prosecute. People who have taken part in fraudulent absentee voting are usually reluctant to candidly discuss the circumstances surrounding their absentee vote, for fear that they’d expose themselves to potential criminal liability.
About Absentee Ballot Fraud...
The United States Department of Justice in a 2006 Report defined the following actions that constitute absentee voting fraud:
- Voting or attempting to vote more than once during the same election as someone may vote absentee in the one municipality as an absentee voter and votes again in person in the same or different municipality on election day.
- Knowingly causing to be mailed or distributed, or knowingly mailing or distributing, literature that includes false information about absentee ballot information, voter’s precinct or polling place, the date and time of the election or a candidate.
- Intentionally changing, attempting to change, or causing to be changed an official election document including ballots, tallies, and returns.
- Intentionally delaying, attempting to delay, or causing to be delayed the sending of certificate, register, ballots (in-person or absentee) or other materials whether original or duplicate required to be sent by jurisdictional law.
- Intentionally making a false affidavit, swearing falsely, or falsely affirming under an oath required by a statute regarding their voting status, including when registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot or presenting to vote in person.
- Registering to vote whether in person or absentee without being entitled to register.
- Knowingly making a materially false statement on an application for voter registration, absentee ballot or early voting, or re-registration.
- Voting or attempting to vote in an election after being disqualified or when the person knows that he or she is not eligible to vote.
No-Fault Absentee Voting
A majority of states across the nation, including Florida have no-fault absentee voting meaning that there is no excuse needed in order to be granted an absentee ballot. This practice has been criticized widely by organizations including the Heritage Foundation who has been adamant on this issue since the late 1990's when there was massive absentee balloting fraud in Alabama. The Heritage Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit conservative think tank, has argued that absentee ballots should be reserved for individuals who cannot vote in person at their assigned polling place on Election Day or at early voting sites prior to the election.
Absentee ballots are appropriate for individuals who are too ill or disabled to vote in person, as well as voters who have legitimate reasons why they cannot vote in person, such as soldiers stationed overseas, but they should not be available just for convenience's sake, because the risk of fraud is too high. As an alternative, many states have early voting stat¬utes that allow in-person voting at government-run polling places for a certain amount of time prior to Election Day. From an election integrity standpoint, early voting has been argued by Heritage as a much safer alterna¬tive to expanded absentee balloting
Originally published in The Daytona Post News