A registered Democrat who was arrested Thursday and charged with a third-degree felony after he requested a mail-in ballot for his dead wife told WFLA that “I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Larry Wiggins, 62, a lifelong Democrat, says he tried to get a mail-in ballot for his deceased wife because he was “testing the system to see if it worked,” the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports.
The voter fraud case comes amid heightened concerns about the mail-in ballot issue, which President Trump repeatedly has highlighted.
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Herald Tribune reports: The Sheriff’s Office began investigating Larry Wiggins, 62, in September after being notified by Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett of the suspicious ballot request.
Bennett said his staff discovered the fraud during a routine check of the voter roll that is done whenever someone requests a mail ballot. The voter database is constantly being updated, including with information from the state Department of Health on voters who die, Bennett said.
“As soon as they pulled up the file it showed that she is dead,” Bennett said.
The supervisor’s office then compared the handwriting on the absentee ballot request for Wiggins’s wife with her signature on file and discovered that they did not match.
Deputies were alerted on Sept. 17 and later interviewed Wiggins. The registered Democrat told them he was “testing the system.”
“He wanted to test the system,” Bennett said. “He did test the system, and guess what? It worked.”
Bennett, a Republican, emphasized that he will prosecute voter fraud to the full extent of the law, but also that such fraud is rare and that voters can have confidence in the election system. This is the first case of voter fraud Bennett has come across in Manatee County since he took over as the top elections official in 2012.
“The amount of fraud committed in Florida in elections is very small,” Bennett said. “People complain that vote by mail is crooked; it’s not, we catch them, we verify it and any supervisor of elections in the state of Florida I know is just as conscious about it as I am.”
Regardless, the incident is likely to stoke fears of widespread vote-by-mail fraud, something President Donald Trump has been warning about as states expand mail voting because of health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
Wiggins was released from jail Friday on $1,500 bail.