City council candidate alleges voter fraud

Christy Dimond

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City council candidate alleges voter fraud

CREATED Aug. 28, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla. - One Fort Myers City Councilman is requesting an investigation into potential voter fraud in the upcoming primary election. Levon Simms held a press conference today alleging there has been an unusual and suspicious spark of interest in the Ward Three election. 

As of August 27, 351 people voted with mail-in absentee ballots for the Ward Three primary election, according to Ward.  In the 2009 general election, 47 people voted by absentee ballot.  Ward called the sharp contrast a "red flag." 
"We believe, and we'll always believe, that something shady is happening in this election," Simms said.  
Out of 145 online absentee ballots sent in, Simms' attorney Jenna Persons said 92 of those came from three IP addresses.  
"All of this activity is incredibly suspicious," Persons said. 
Anthony Thomas, a member of the campaign team for Simms' opponent Christine Matthews, said the reason for the three IP address is simple: their team has been canvassing neighborhoods getting people to request their ballots.  According to Lee County Elections Supervisor Sharon Harrington, it is legal for candidates to use smartphones, computers or tablets while canvassing and allow people to request their ballots on those devices.  
Harrington said she doesn't believe any voter fraud is happening in Lee County right now. 
"I really think it's basic grassroots, I don't think there's anything going on but we're definitely going to make sure that doesn't happen," Harrington said. 
The investigation will be turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who will look into whether the voters were intimidated or coerced while filling out their ballots, or if they were paid money. 
Simms' second opponent, Mildred Barnes, said she has been going door-to-door campaigning.  She did not think fraudulent activity is happening, but said she welcomes investigators to look into it.  She questions the timing and intentions of Simms' allegation. 

"If you want to call for the news reporters to come up, do it when it's not in the midst of an election, do it when there's an issue going on in the community... go out and speak for the people at that time," Barnes said.