8 INVESTIGATES: Mail-in ballots stolen in Pinellas, phony vote still counts

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — An Indian Shores man got a letter in the mail, warning him something was up, with his mail-in ballot.  Something was up all right, someone apparently swiped ballets belonging to Chris Cronin and his wife Michelle.  The thief voted, signed the ballots and sent them to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office to be counted.

“Somebody apparently took both of our ballots and voted for us,” Chris said in disbelief.

Chris got a letter from the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections stating the office received his mail-in ballot. The letter also said, “The signature on the ballot return envelope does not match our records.”

So, Chris called the elections office.

“I said, ‘Look, I never voted. I never received mine’ and they said, ‘Well, we have it here and the signature doesn’t match, so in order to have this counted, you have to come down’,” recalled Chris.  “And I said, ‘Well I didn’t vote, so I don’t want that one to count’.”

Chris says his wife Michelle also got an earful when she called about the mail-in ballot she never received.

“We have your ballot here also, and it’s signed, but it doesn’t match the signature we have on file, and she said it looks like the same person signed your husband’s signed this one,” Chris recalled.

The counting of early voting and mail-in ballots is well underway in Pinellas County.  Staffers checking every ballot return envelope caught the phony signature on Chris’ stolen ballot.

They did not catch the one on Michelle’s, which means the fraudulent vote counted.

“Unfortunately yes.  That vote did count,” said Supervisor of Elections Communications Director Jason Latimer.  “It made it to our tabulation area.  This was one of those situations that is unfortunate.”

Jason Latimer explains that each ballot return envelope has a voter name and bar code.  The ballots do not.  Once signatures are verified, the ballots and envelopes are separated.  There is no way to tell who cast which ballot.

If Michelle can’t make it to a polling place, the imposter who signed her stolen ballot will have voted in her place.

“And we’ve spoken to Mrs. Cronin and we’re going to make every effort we can to make sure that she gets to cast this ballot,” said Mr. Latimer.

According to Mr. Latimer, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office sent about 500 letters to voters, informing them that the signatures on the ballot return envelopes do not match signatures in voter registration files.  He claims this is the only case of stolen ballots that the office has encountered.

“We hear about the election being rigged etc. and being reassured that there’s nothing like this happening.  But it is, it happened to me, it happened to my wife,” said Chris.

If you are expecting a mail-in ballot and have not received it, you can go to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections web page and track when your ballot was mailed to you and if it has been received by the office.

If you have a problem that you think needs to be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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