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Timetable for voter fraud decision up in air

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By Jeff M. Hardison

GAINESVILLE –Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone said on Nov. 2 his office continues working on alleged voter fraud cases related to the Aug. 7 Chiefland election.

Cervone told the Chiefland Citizen on Oct. 25 that he "is close to making a decision" on whether to prosecute any or all of the alleged 11 violators of voting laws. On Oct. 25, Cervone said he must conduct some additional background investigation of a couple of people.

On Nov. 2, however, Cervone said he does not know when he will announce a decision as to whether to prosecute any or all of alleged 11 different suspects in these voter fraud cases.

"This is not to imply anything else," Cervone said. "Nothing has been definitely decided."

Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida Secretary of State, Division of Elections confirmed 11 as being the number of people investigated for alleged voter fraud in Levy County.

Cervone said there is no statutory deadline for him to decide whether to prosecute alleged felonious voter fraud cases after evidence has been given to his office. Cervone is the top prosecutor for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Levy, Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist and Union counties. He represents the state government in regard to criminal law in this part of Florida. He is an elected official.

HISTORY OF ALLEGATIONS

On Aug. 7, Chiefland held elections to decide who would fill three City Commission seats.

On Aug. 9, former Chiefland City Commissioner Alice Monyei, who was among the losers in that election, announced on WCJB TV-20 of Gainesville that she had sent a sworn complaint to the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections. Monyei alleged that Andy Dennis Andrews, 64, of Chiefland was registered as a voter who listed a Chiefland business address as his residence.

She told television viewers that Andrews had been doing this for years. She said the people of Chiefland feared the wrath of Andrews too much to report his alleged voter registration violations.

On Aug. 15, the Division of Elections received the complaints, Ivey said.

Six of the people who are believed to have been investigated for voter fraud in Levy County are Andy, Dennis, Kelby, Amy, Mary and Barbara Andrews.

Records show these six people used two business addresses to claim two offices as residences for voting purposes. Andy Andrews allegedly resides in the A.D. Andrews Nursery office at 13 S.E. First St. for voting purposes. That office is zoned for commercial use. Therefore, it is zoned for non-residential uses, according to Chiefland zoning ordinances.

His brother Dennis Andrews claims to reside in the Andrews Land & Timber office at 1411 S. Main St. (U.S. Highway 19) for voting purposes, according to records. That office is in an area zoned for industrial use. It is zoned for non-residential uses, according to Chiefland zoning ordinances.

Dennis and Kelby Andrews reside together at the Main Street address, and Andy, Amy, Barbara and Mary Andrews reside at the First Street address, according to voter registration records.

About a week after the Division of Elections received the complaints, it found legal sufficiency to send the complaint to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation.

About five weeks after taking the cases for investigation, the FDLE returned the completed investigations back to the Division of Elections.

Division of Elections General Counsel Hearn accepted the cases from the FDLE on Sept. 25 and by Sept. 27, the files were sent to State Attorney Cervone.

The FDLE normally gives this type of file directly to the State Attorney's Office, Ivey said. In regard to this set of cases from the Chiefland area, Ivey said he believes the FDLE returned the files to the Division of Elections first just to let it know the investigation was complete.

PUNISHMENT

"A person who commits or attempts to commit any fraud in connection with voting, votes a fraudulent ballot, or votes more than once in an election can be convicted of a felony of the third degree and fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years," according to information on the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections website.