FORT MYERS, Fla.- A Fort Myers city council member is claiming possible fraud in the election process, as he runs for re-election against two opponents in the September primary. Levon Simms questions a large number of absentee ballots.
"There are red flags. And that is when you have to call people out," says Simms.
He and his attorney, Jenna Persons, held a news conference at City Hall.
"We have a serious situation here. We are very suspicious about all these absentee ballots that are showing up in a single ward in the city," says Persons.
Simms is running in Ward 3, where in 2009's general election,voters cast only 47 absentees.
This year, for the primary, people have requested 505 absentees, and returned to the elections office, 351 of those ballots.
Persons says she believes some activists are signing up people for absentees, without those people being present. That is illegal.
Sharon Harrington, Lee elections supervisior, says if people are just encouraging others to get absentees, or even loaning them their cell-phones or I-pads to request absentees, that is okay. As long as the voter actually does the request himself or herself.
"I think it's probably a case of people urging others to get the absentees to increase turn-out and avoid having to go to the polls on primary day," says Harrington.
Persons says the state attorney's office is opening a file on the issue, and Lee co. says it may ask the state department of law enforcement to investigate the high number of absentees.
Last week in Miami, two campaign aides were charged with fraud, after signed up people for absentees, without the people being present.