The Republican National Committee ended efforts to sign up new voters before the deadline in key states for the presidential race because of questions raised over registration applications tied to the party.
Republican parties in Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia -- all states that both campaigns view as competitive -- fired Glen Allen, Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting, the company in charge of registrations, said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. The national committee also canceled its contract with the company, its only vendor signing up new voters, Kukowski said.
The five states have registration deadlines from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15. Stopping efforts before then could hurt Republican nominee Mitt Romney in his bid to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama, said Lance deHaven-Smith, a Florida State University political science professor in Tallahassee.
“In any swing state that’s going to be significant because these elections are so close,” deHaven-Smith said. “This gives an advantage to Obama.”
Firing the company didn’t hurt the party’s registration efforts, Kukowski said.
“It was wrapping up at the same time this happened, so there is no impact,” Kukowski said in an e-mail.
Strategic Allied was fired after Florida’s Palm Beach Post reported Sept. 25 that questions had been raised about applications the company gave to the Palm Beach County elections supervisor’s office, Kukowski said.
That was the first time either the national or state party learned about issues with registration, said Kukowski and Brian Burgess, a Florida Republican Party spokesman.
The company was required to report any instances of applications being questioned by elections officials to the state party, Burgess said.
Nathan Sproul, who owns the company, said that wasn’t true.
“Every morning, a conference call was held to discuss the project using their conference call number,” Sproul said in an e-mail. “It’s impossible for them to claim with credibility that we didn’t communicate clearly.”
Sproul said the company had 2,000 workers in Florida and that the problems were caused by a few individuals.
The applications contained similar signatures and incomplete Social Security numbers, said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. It’s a third-degree felony under state law to submit fraudulent applications, Cate said.
Florida investigators are considering a criminal case over the registration forms, said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the state Law Enforcement Department.
The Florida Republican Party filed an elections complaint against Strategic Allied Consulting over the issue, Cate said. Cate declined to release the complaint, citing a public-records exemption under state law.
The suspicious forms were linked to the party because of new requirements under a 2011 law signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott. Democrats said the law, which put new regulations on signing up voters, was written to create hurdles for Obama’s re- election and favor Republicans. Republicans who control the Legislature said the law was needed to combat voter fraud.
Scott has made it a priority to remove illegally registered Floridians from the state’s 11.5 million voters. His administration has spent more than a year searching the rolls, and at least 59 suspected noncitizens have been removed so far, Cate said.
Hundreds of forms linked to the party were questioned last week by election officials in nine counties who said the documents contained similar signatures and incomplete Social Security numbers, Cate said.
For more than a year, Scott also has made registering new voters a priority. He recruited top Republican fundraisers to collect money for the effort to help erase party’s deficit with Democrats, who have an edge of about 455,000 voters.
That in-house effort from Florida Republicans resulted in about 7,000 applications in the two months before hiring Strategic Allied in July at the suggestion of the Republican National Committee, Burgess said. None of the applications collected by the state party have been questioned, Burgess said.
The company has been paid more than $1.3 million from the Florida Republican Party, Burgess said. The company hasn’t reported to the party the number of voters it registered, Burgess said.
Strategic Allied and its units have registered more than 500,000 voters in 40 states since the 2004 presidential election, Sproul said
“We are very proud of our work product,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Tallahassee at firstname.lastname@example.org
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