Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo’s war on voter registration fraud has gained an ally in Republican Sen. Travis Hutson. Hutson signed off on language she suggested targeting unscrupulous third-party voter registration groups in a strike-all amendment he filed Tuesday.
SB 524, one of several bills by Hutson this Session which evoke consternation among his Democratic colleagues, would ban ranked-choice voting, tighten vote-by-mail strictures and create an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” to investigate voter fraud complaints.
If the Senate Appropriations Committee OK’s Hutson’s new strike-all Thursday, it also would fine third-party voter registration organizations $1,000 for every voter registration form its employees alter without a person’s knowledge — an amendment Taddeo suggested Feb. 1, when the bill cleared the Senate Ethics and Election committee along party lines.
Taddeo said she withdrew her amendment at Hutson’s request so the two could have “a good faith discussion.” They did.
“I applaud Sen. Hutson and Senate President (Wilton) Simpson for including (my amendment) in the strike all,” she said in a statement. “The severity of these reports coming in from all across Florida, of individuals having their party changed is not a partisan issue, and I would like to thank the bill sponsor for adding this language. It is imperative that we protect our citizens, protect our democracy and do whatever we must to make sure people are confident in our electoral process.”
The reports to which Taddeo referred stem from an exposé by WPLG Local 10’s Glenna Milberg, who reported in December that residents of the Haley Sofge Towers in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood had their voter registration changed from Democrat to Republican without their consent.
Within days, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle promised to investigate the scheme, which appears to have targeted seniors who speak little or no English.
According to the Miami Herald, more than 100 people who live in the towers and a nearby building — all low-income housing communities — switched their political party affiliation to Republican in a recent four-month period.
Taddeo, who is running for Governor, has been conducting her own inquiry into the matter. It brought her to Hillsborough County, where she spoke with one woman who claimed she’d been paid by a Donald Trump-backed dark money group, Florida First, to trick elderly Democrats into changing parties. Taddeo’s office said Tuesday she has since submitted information to Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
The activity also has been linked to the Republican Party of Florida. Both Florida First and the RPOF have denied any involvement.
Taddeo has called it “a concerted effort” to slash Democratic voter rolls while artificially pumping up Republican voter numbers ahead of the November election — something that could hurt her chances of notching the Democratic nomination.
“If (these) 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,” she said.
Her amendment to Hutson’s bill won’t go into effect until the next election cycle.