At a news conference Wednesday, former municipal candidates Mike Cantone and Lawanna Gelzer called on State Attorney Jeff Ashton and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to open a criminal investigation into the 2012 Orlando municipal election.
After nearly one year of reviewing documents, Cantone said, the voting irregularities with absentee ballots in the April 3rd election and actions by Mayor Buddy Dyer, Commissioner Sam Ings and their operatives, including Ezzie Thomas, mirror those described in 2005, when Dyer and Thomas were indicted and booked for election fraud. “But, only this time around, we found much more troubling information and patterns of public corruption in the City Clerk’s office,” Cantone said.
According to Cantone, one of the main problems is the contract between the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) and the City Clerk’s office, which makes clear that the city will administer the election, despite the public appearance that SOE is in charge.
“This contract [between SOE and the city of Orlando] differs from every other major city in Florida, in that the city of Orlando would be responsible for handling, counting, sorting and tabulating absentee ballots on election day,” he said.
See video of Cantone and Gelzer news conference calling for an investigation into 2012 Orlando municipal election
Cantone said, although the opening and counting of absentee ballots in the April 3rd election should have been done in conjunction with the SOE, that office was unable to “confirm the chain of command nor provide a list of who handled active ballots before polls closed.”
Based on their investigation, Cantone said, nearly 1,000 questionable absentee ballots were identified containing different color inks used for the signatures and dates, signatures that do not cover the seal of the envelope, bundles of deliveries of ballots not stamped, yet all delivered and checked in at the SOE at the same time, matching handwriting on various ballots, harvesting and other irregularities.
“We need to stop the pay for votes which is going on year after year in local elections,” Cantone declared. He also said that although there was a 15% percent voter turnout, nonetheless, the city purchased enough ballots for a 102% turnout at a cost of $40,748 to the taxpayers of Orlando.
Cantone said, another area of concern is the Canvassing Board, composed of three members – City Clerk Alana Brenner, an appointee of Dyer’s, Commissioner Robert Stuart and Commissioner Daisy Lynum, who later resigned because of a violation of the law regarding her political activity while serving on the canvassing board.
He said before Lynum resigned from the Board however, she was able to pass two important measures changing the procedures for handling and tabulating the vote on April 3rd. One motion allowed for city staff to begin the opening of ballots shortly after 9:00 a.m., after public inspection concluded, but not tally the votes until after 7:00 p.m., that evening.
Gelzer said that on election day, she along with Republican Ken Mulvaney, challenged numerous absentee ballots and were rushed to review them during the public inspection period, given that ballot opening began shortly after 9:00 a.m. “There appeared to be a pre-determined effort to start the opening and handling of ballots as early as possible,” she said.
Asked whether or not the outcome of the municipal election might have been different if alleged voting irregularities had not occurred, Cantone said, that wasn’t the purpose of the news conference. Rather, it is to open an investigation into the “numerous voting irregularities and potential absentee ballot fraud committed during the 2012 Orlando municipal elections on April 3rd.”
Cantone said he would like to see changes immediately to the Canvassing Board, including its expansion, allowing the Orange County Supervisor of Elections to be a member, a retired judge, as well as two lay citizens – one male and one female, who have no financial business with the city.
Cantone also called for a revision of the city code to match the Tampa City Charter, clearly stating that the Orange County Supervisor of Elections is the administrator and final authority of municipal elections in Orlando.
“Alana Brenner is a political appointee of an elected politician, [Mayor Buddy Dyer],” he said. “She should not be in charge of tabulating, handling and counting the votes.”
At the conclusion of the news conference, an official 8-page complaint was delivered to the office of State Attorney Jeff Ashton and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with more than 1000 pages of evidence and public records that have been collected. Copies of the complaint are being sent to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott.