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Originally published September 28, 2012 at 7:42 PM | Page modified September 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM

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GOP fires firm after suspicious voter sign-ups in Florida

A voter-registration controversy in Florida has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted it urged state parties in seven swing states to hire the firm in question.

Tribune Washington bureau

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WASHINGTON — Florida election officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter-registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election-fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant.

The controversy in Florida has engulfed the Republican National Committee (RNC), which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states to hire the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting.

The RNC paid the company at least $3.1 million — routed through the state parties of Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia — to register voters and run get-out-the-vote operations. In Wisconsin and Ohio, the firm has not yet been paid for get-out-the-vote operations it was contracted to do.

The RNC severed its ties with the firm Thursday after questions arose about the work Strategic Allied did in Palm Beach County, where election officials gave prosecutors 106 voter-registration forms submitted by one worker, some of which contained apparent forgeries and other problems.

Now election officials across Florida are scrutinizing voter-registration forms turned in to their counties on behalf of the state Republican Party. The state elections division is also investigating.

Florida GOP officials — who said they hired Strategic Allied at the request of the RNC — said in their complaint that the firm turned in forms with fake signatures and false information, said Chris Cate, spokesman for the Division of Elections, which will turn over its findings to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said Friday that she had heard from elections officials in Lee, Bay, Clay, Santa Rosa, Escambia and Okaloosa counties who had also identified problematic voter-registration forms turned in by the Florida GOP. Pasco County officials discovered possibly fraudulent forms during the Republican primary, Davis said.

Cate, the spokesman for the state elections division, said possibly fraudulent forms have also been reported in Miami-Dade and Duval, two of the state's most populous counties.

Strategic Allied is run by an Arizona-based man, Nathan Sproul, who has been dogged by charges that his employees destroyed Democratic registrations. No charges were ever filed.

But his reputation is such that when Sproul was tapped by the RNC to do field work this year, officials requested he set up a new firm to avoid being publicly linked to the past accusations, Sproul said. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.

In an interview Thursday, Sproul blamed the problematic forms in Palm Beach on one individual and said his firm had offered to assist elections officials in identifying problems in other counties.

The Florida Democratic Party called on the state to "revoke" the ability of state Republicans to continue to register voters while the investigation continues. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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