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Rick Scott speaks at Republican Party of Sarasota event.

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Sarasota Republicans withhold straw poll results amid irregularities

Results from a straw poll conducted Saturday by the Republican Party of Sarasota County will not be released following accusations of ballot-stuffing.

A statement from the party puts some blame on left-wing activists who came to the event and disrupted a speech by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a U.S. Senate candidate. But it also acknowledged accusations a supporter of gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis allegedly stuffed the ballot for her candidate.

The statement, released by Republican Party of Sarasota Vice Chairman Jack Brill, reads: “After the hugely successful rally, the problem was discovered that the disruptions by left-wing groups who snuck in, jumped on tables and tried to shout down Gov. Rick Scott, combined with accusations of ballot-stuffing, allowed the vote to be tainted and left the Party with no option but to not release results that it could not verify as accurate.”

DeSantis and primary opponent Adam Putnam both spoke Saturday at the Primary Election Grassroots Straw Poll. But several eyewitnesses said DeSantis supporter Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder grabbed a stack of ballots and passed them around to those sitting near to her.

She admitted as much to Florida Politics, but said neither she nor any of the people around her voted more than once. Rather, she blamed a procedure that required voters to get in a line and pick up their ballots along with a free slice of pie.

“Why ruin my body and get a piece of pie,” she said.

Of course, the straw poll included a number of races besides governor, including tight primary races.

Republican candidates for Congress in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, including Greg Steube, Julio Gonzalez and Bill Akins, all spoke at the event.

So did Tommy Gregory and Melissa Howard, the Republican candidates in state House District 73.

Two years ago, straw poll organizers for this event stamped individuals’ hands to ensure everybody only voted once, but saw many people come to vote and immediately leave. This year, the pie-and-ballot system was employed to keep people there to hear speeches.

The party statement today made clear the sanctity of the straw poll would be reassessed.

“The Party will institute stricter voting controls over the next straw poll, and have even more security in place, because unfortunately disruptions are now the primary tactic of the left and Democrats,” it reads.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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