Choose early. Vote by email. Voters personally.
But how often is polling a crime in Florida?
That’s the answer we’re looking for, and that’s how we met Larry Wiggins of Manatee County.
Wiggins is the youngest Florida man to be arrested for trying to defraud the Florida electoral system. Last month, Manatee County investigators said he tried to request a postal ballot on behalf of his wife. The problem? His wife is dead.
“What did you think you were doing?” asked investigative reporter Katie LaGrone.
“I thought they weren’t going to send it and they didn’t send it,” said Wiggins.
In his affidavit, Wiggins claims he “tested the system” when he requested the ballot and signed her name for it.
“I only wrote your name down twice, that’s all,” he said in a recent interview.
Wiggins is now facing a number of voting frauds via email. He is one of the few we found in the Sunshine State who has been voting illegally since 2016 or has tried to vote illegally.
Using court case data from the State Court Administrator’s office in Florida, we have compiled cases involving individuals who voted more than once in an election. While electoral fraud can take several forms, one of the most popular ways to commit the crime is double voting.
Over the past four years, court records provided by the state have shown us that six people have been accused of casting more than one vote in an election.
“With so many people moving into and out of Florida, it seems plausible that there are more,” said Tampa-based political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus. But Dr. MacManus said Florida polling officers have become very good at finding voters who are registered in two states.
In addition, Florida recently joined a consortium of states that are part of a national voter register that helps identify duplicate voters.
Voting fraud in Florida is a third-degree crime and carries harsh sentences that can include up to five years in prison.
In the cases we identified through the Office of State Courts, more than half of the cases ended on parole. At least one of the cases was dropped.
“Creating a case requires witnesses, evidence and willpower, so creating a case is not that easy,” said District Attorney Dave Aronberg, whose office filed a postal ballot case eleven months ago a few years ago. Despite the long time in the case, his office did not have sufficient evidence to be prosecuted.
“The real possibility for fraud is if the polls are self-voting,” MacManus said, adding that “it usually does at registration,” she said.
Larry Wiggins said he had learned his lesson. He believes he did not break the law because he did not vote on his wife’s behalf. Instead, he claims he just made a mistake and hopes the law will turn out in his favor in the end.
“I don’t want to break the law anywhere. I’m a law-abiding person and I always do the right thing,” said Wiggins.