Florida agency reviews ballot-picking complaint referred by Office of Election Investigations

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating a ballot-picking complaint that occurred in Fort Myers, The Epoch Times reported.

The complaint (pdf) alleged that Terolyn Watson, a Democratic Fort Myers City Councilwoman for Ward 3, drove around neighborhoods in a golf cart asking residents to call a supervisor of elections and request a mail-in ballot while she was standing there. and waits.

Watson also allegedly intimidated residents into placing her campaign signs in their yards.

Chantel Rhodes, Watson’s Democratic challenger for Ward 3, filed the complaint.

Rhodes is a supporter of Black Lives Matter.

“The FDLE received a complaint about ballot collection in Ft. Myers and we are investigating the complaint,” FDLE Public Information Officer Gretl Plessinger told the Epoch Times. “This is not an investigation at this time.”

Rhodes confirmed that the legal department had contacted her.

“I just spoke with the Fort Myers Police Department,” Rhodes told The Epoch Times on Oct. 26. “They said the case is now with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Chantel Rhodes (center), candidate for Ft.  Myers City Council District 3 with her mother Darlene (left) and bother Chuck (right).
Chantel Rhodes (center), candidate for Ft. Myers City Council District 3 with her mother Darlene (left) and bother Chuck (right). (Courtesy of Chantel Rhodes)

The complaint was reviewed by the Office of Election Crimes and Security (OECS) and forwarded to the Legal Division, Florida Department of State (FDOS), Director of External Affairs Mark R. Ard, PMP told The Epoch Times.

“Our office received a complaint on August 31, 2022,” said Ard. “The Office for Electoral Crime and Security (OECS) is an investigative body and does not have powers of arrest. OECS conducted a preliminary investigation and forwarded information to the Fort Myers Police Department on September 14, 2022 and reported on the Lee County Supervisor Election on September 15, 2022. OECS has now forwarded the complaint to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a possible violation of Section 104.0616, Florida Statutes.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin declined to comment on the matter, saying they cannot comment on an active investigation.

‘That girl is just desperate’

Rhodes said she learned Watson paid several people $20 and offered to buy items for their ballots.

“It was a red flag for me,” she said. “Ballots are being collected.”

Watson did not respond to emails from The Epoch Times.

The incumbent Ft.  Myers Democrat City Councilwoman for District 3, Terolyn Watson is under investigation for possible violations of Florida's ballot collection laws.
The incumbent Ft. Myers Democrat City Councilwoman for District 3, Terolyn Watson is under investigation for possible violations of Florida’s ballot collection laws. (City of Ft. Myers website)

However, according to a local report on September 6, Watson denies engaging in any improper election practices.

“The girl is just desperate, just trying to figure something out,” Watson said. “The people choose their own candidates; the love and respect I have for them, they have for me.”

“My initial feeling is that my (opponent) is getting desperate. My numbers are double hers. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind,” Watson said. “This is not going to deter me from going out and doing what I need to do.” it’s just a distraction.”

Patricia Tolson

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An award-winning national investigative reporter with 20 years of experience, Patricia Tolson has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo!, US News and The Tampa Free Press. With The Epoch Times, Patricia’s in-depth investigative coverage of human interest stories, electoral politics, education, school boards and parental rights has achieved international exposure. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]

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