‘This is a concerted effort’: Annette Taddeo ties voter registration scheme to dark money group backing Donald Trump

taddeo
This isn't the first time the group has been linked to voter registration fraud.

Sen. Annette Taddeo has lodged damning accusations of voter registration fraud at the Republican Party of Florida and a Donald Trump-backing dark money group, which she argued have run a campaign to deliberately dupe elderly and Hispanic Democratic voters into switching their party affiliation.

Taddeo is calling for statewide investigations by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and the Florida Senate, whose subpoena powers could uncover how widespread the scheme is.

While she awaits movement on those requests, Taddeo is conducting her own inquiry into the matter, speaking with victims and one Hillsborough County woman who was among those scamming seniors.

Thus far, it appears Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties, as well as several counties surrounding Hillsborough, have been hotspots for voter registration fraud, Taddeo told reporters Friday. She spoke outside Haley Sofge Towers, a public housing complex in Little Havana where several victims live.

The victims are all elderly and speak little to no English. Some are reluctant to come forward, she said, for fear “the government will come after them” and they’ll lose their homes. Many live in public housing.

“Unacceptable,” she said. “This is not Cuba. This is not China. This is not Venezuela. People have the freedom in this country to pick the party they want to be a part of and should not be swindled into switching their registration — something that will directly affect my campaign for Governor.

“Because if Democrats are not able to vote, and they’re mostly Hispanic who they’re targeting, as the first Latina to run for Governor in Florida history, it would affect me directly as well.”

Little Havana public housing resident Juan Salazar, 77, showing the press his old and new voter registration card. A longtime registered Democrat, he is one of the people who were tricked into registering as Republican last year. Image via Jesse Scheckner.

Taddeo has spoken with roughly a dozen Democrats whose registrations were changed to Republican. That activity has been linked directly to the Republican Party of Florida. But as reported by WPLG, Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré said the RPOF “conducts its voter registration operation in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

WPLG first uncovered the activity in December.

Another organization, Florida First — a grantee of America First Policies, a dark money group formed in 2017 by members of Trump’s presidential campaign — has also been conning unwitting Democratic seniors, Taddeo said.

Like America First, Florida First is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and is not required to disclose its donors.

This isn’t the first time Florida First has come under fire for enrolling Democratic and independent voters as Republicans without their consent. In March 2020, Clermont woman Cheryl Hall was charged in Lake County with submitting 10 false voter registration forms while working for the group. At the time, Lake Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays said Hall may have submitted another 100-plus forms with false information.

Hall, 65, pleaded no contest in December to 10 counts of submitting false voter records and was sentenced to a year of supervised probation.

A Florida First employee Taddeo spoke with shined light on how voter registration fraudsters grift victims. The woman, whom Taddeo said quit after realizing what she was doing, was told to cover a portion of the form with her hand while holding a clipboard so the person filling it out only partially completed it.

“Then when they walk away, they fill it out for them,” Taddeo said. “Their training is very specific.”

Nearly 5,500 Miami-Dade Democrats switched their registration to Republican, according to 2021-22 county Elections Department records. Conversely, fewer than 1,700 Republicans there switched to Democrats during the same period.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is now investigating the matter.

“We are aware of recent reports relating to voter fraud and we’ve been investigating these claims for several weeks now, as we take these allegations very seriously,” she said in a statement.

Democratic state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also running for Governor, has called for a statewide investigation as well.

For the first time in modern history, Republicans closed 2021 with more active registered voters than Democrats. Democrats have responded with multiple initiatives to register new voters and reengage their existing party members ahead of this year’s midterms.

Taddeo said the surge in GOP voter rolls is “all due to fake voter registrations or swindling.”

“This is a concerted effort to get the headlines that they got and to get the results they want in a Democratic Primary, because of course the Hispanic vote is a lot of the way that this election will be decided.”

Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami, a candidate for Governor, met with members of the press and residents of the Haley Sofge Towers public housing complex in Little Havana on Friday to address voter registration fraud in several Florida counties. Image via Jesse Scheckner.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday he’d like to see all cases tied to the issue go through Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office. He pointed to the “shenanigans” as evidence a statewide “election integrity unit” he has proposed is needed.

A bill (SB 524) to create that elections police unit, ban ranked-choice voting and add additional barriers to mail-in voting cleared its first committee last week.

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections, of which Taddeo is vice chair, passed the bill on a 5-3 party-line vote after three hours of debate Feb. 1.

Hays complained elections supervisors were not consulted about the bill prior to its filing.

“Please use us as your election information source,” he said. “Don’t depend on the internet.”

During the meeting, Taddeo proposed seven amendments to the bill, all of which were either voted down or retracted. One amendment, which she withdrew at the request of sponsoring Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, would allow the organizations behind voter registration fraud operations to be fined $10,000 for each person whose election integrity was compromised.

That way, she said, it wouldn’t just be “the lady knocking on the door or the gentleman that’s being paid $10 an hour to go register voters (who are) prosecuted but actually the people behind it that would be held responsible.”

Hutson asked her to withdraw her amendment so they could discuss it outside of committee. They’ve since spoken, she said, “of adding this very good amendment to that bad, bad bill.”

But she wouldn’t vote for the bill even if the amendment were added.

“That may save face for the Republican Party, but it will not fix the problem for this election,” she said. “It will not fix the problem right now, because we have a problem for this cycle, and that bill is for the next cycle.”

Taddeo has also drafted letters to Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson and Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who chairs the Ethics and Elections Committee, asking for a full inquiry. Such an investigation would include subpoena powers.

The goal, she said, would be to “get behind every single bit of how this happened, how it is happening.”

“And really, if the Governor is serious about what he said on Monday … and truly wants elections integrity, let’s go ahead and get to the bottom of this and make sure that no one is in any way damaged in their right to vote in a closed Primary system like we have in this state.”

Taddeo also sent a letter to Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who oversees elections, in December.

“I have yet to get a response,” she said.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


7 comments

  • Cherry Wood

    February 11, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    She’s completely wrong. The city and county lines are set up to restrict most conservatives, Independents and Republicans from voting in the local elections ( first ones too)! I’ve lived in more than one city in Alachua County where I couldn’t vote in all of them! And, the elections are already rigged another way to as us Independents can’t vote at all in the present elections. I’m Independent, and I don’t vote straight party. I cannot vote due to the geographical (property) lines not matching the postal addresses for each city, and it’s pissing thousands of us off. Whoever made these differences is crooked and ignorant. There needs to be a new solution to voting lines matching postal and property lines, and every party should be allowed to vote in every election.

  • Cherry Wood

    February 11, 2022 at 6:39 pm

    Also, All the Management (people who make the rules) need to be audited in all Medicare facilities, including Home Health, because they are hurting the patients as don’t follow doctors orders, they don’t bill insurance correctly, and file the insurance incorrectly, so those of us on the new “dual complete plans end up paying more, or not getting the care are doctors ordered. I myself am about ready to take them to court. I’m a retired hospital auditor who has already lost one leg, and my other legs worse because of these issues now. Over a year now, my doctors orders were never followed in Alachua County, Florida. If Florida would give us our Medicaid and Medicare cards, this could be partially solved, but we don’t get them if we’re on a supplement plan. These companies don’t even bill our insurance for supplies, as they pay for what they want done instead. This county has the worst healthcare I ever seen in my life!! (Mayby because it’s leaders are mostly Democrats), and many of us can’t vote here?? I’m new to this site, so I hope someone

  • Cherry Wood

    February 11, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    Someone please forward my comments to Everyone, including Governor DeSantis. The best Governor on the planet right now. I can’t keep a signal up in Gainesville long enough to do this myself???

  • Tom

    February 12, 2022 at 6:26 am

    Hmm, candidate for Gov cry’s wolf.
    Wah, Wah! Where were you and your party, what weren’t you out getting new registrations. It’s called being outplayed. Spare us!
    Go call Cava.

    • David Hurley

      February 12, 2022 at 7:36 am

      Obvious graft in altering registrations without their knowledge and you’re calling it this candidates laziness?… ignorance on your part is no excuse.

      • Tom

        February 12, 2022 at 7:44 am

        You don’t know that.
        She’s a hack.
        He said, she said, they said.
        Cava endorsed Taddeo, week later she is accusing. Week later Taddeo is making charges now. Tag team lies. Stop the belly aching pal.
        What do you know pal. If someone did something wrong, prove it.
        Go scratch ignorant one.

  • Tom

    February 13, 2022 at 7:34 am

    Yes, very concerted.
    Cava attacks a week ago. She endorsed Taddeo
    Non proof, no facts, no docs.
    Taddeo now a week later attacks. Gov candidate. No proof, no facts
    Nikki Fraud, pretend candidate for Gov says she’s called the Attorney General. Cause everyone does. Embarrassing.

Comments are closed.


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