For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Contact: Mark Ard
PRESS RELEASE: Florida Department of State Holds Third-Party Voter Registration Organizations Accountable for Repeated Violations of Law
~Announcement coincides with recent arrests of voter registration collection agents in Lee and Charlotte Counties~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Secretary of State, Cord Byrd, announced today the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) has secured payments of civil fines in the amount of $34,400.00 against Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC, a third-party voter registration organization, for repeated violations of third-party voter registration laws contained in section 97.0575, Florida Statutes (Fla. Stat.). Hard Knocks Strategies has also been fined an additional $12,200.00 for recent violations of 97.0575, Fla. Stat.
“Floridians place a great deal of trust in third-party voter registration organizations to collect their personal information and submit their voter registration application to the appropriate Supervisor of Elections in a timely manner. This organization has shown a blatant disregard for the laws of this state and their illegal conduct undermines the confidence of Floridians in the elections process.” said Secretary of State Cord Byrd. “We will protect the sanctity of Florida’s elections and will continue to use any and all available methods to hold organizations and individual bad actors accountable for violations of Florida election law.”
The Office of Election Crimes and Security reviewed 2,868 voter registration applications collected by Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC’s, agents, that were submitted to election officials after the statutory deadline. Of these registrations, at least 116 were collected before – but not delivered until after – book closing deadlines, subjecting Florida voters to potential disenfranchisement. Hard Knocks Strategies, LLC also repeatedly turned in registrations to the incorrect county supervisors of elections, and in one instance, submitted 21 Florida voter registrations presumed to be from Texas residents.
The Office of Election Crimes and Security’s announcement of these fines coincides with a series of recent arrests in Charlotte and Lee Counties of Hard Knocks Strategies’ voter registration collection agents who had submitted a large number of fraudulent voter registration applications from 2021-2022. These potential fraudulent registrations were first reported by Lee County Supervisor of Elections’ office to the Florida Department of State and the Office of the State Attorney (SAO), 20th Judicial Circuit. The Department of State, Office of Election Crimes and Security is grateful to the Supervisors of Elections Offices in Charlotte and Lee Counties for their diligence in recognizing and reporting this fraud.
The SAO criminal investigation implicated six employees of Hard Knocks Strategies in Lee County, and a seventh in Charlotte County who had submitted to election officials in those counties at least 58 fraudulent voter registration applications using the personal identification of others without their consent. Further, the investigation found that Hard Knocks Strategies evidently does not conduct background checks on voter registration collection agents who handle sensitive information. According to arrest reports, one defendant, at the time of his employment with Hard Knocks Strategies, was a 15-time convicted felon; another defendant, also a convicted felon, has three prior convictions for crimes involving dishonesty. Thanks to the outstanding work by our partners at the Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit, the multiple defendants in this case will be forced to answer for attempting to corrupt Florida’s voter registration process.
Florida is a model for successful election administration. The Florida Department of State, Office of Election Crimes and Security seeks to ensure that elections in this state are fair, secure and accurate. Those who observe or witness a potential case of elections fraud can complete and submit an Elections Fraud Complaint Form (ENG/SPN) to OECS. If, after a preliminary investigation by OECS, there is reason to believe that elections fraud may have occurred, OECS will refer the information to the statewide prosecutor, the relevant state attorney, or an appropriate law enforcement agency for further investigation and prosecution.
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