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Concerning political tactics in Naples could get a state probe


A torrent of text messages from a political action committee ahead of next month’s city council and mayoral elections in Naples is causing confusion and some fear among voters. And as a result, a state investigation could be forthcoming.

The text message begins this way: “Hi Karen, (or recipient’sname), thank you for requesting a mail ballot. Please visit…

Then a website domain is provided.

Simple enough? No? These are not text messages from the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office as the opening message about requesting a mail ballot seems to imply. Rather, it’s an attack ad and it’s causing fear among voters.

The Supervisor of Elections Office is the only entity that one may request a mail ballot from. There are multiple safeguards in place before one is issued.

The text message goes on to lambaste specific candidates for the mayoral and city council races as being pro big development, pro taxes and anti-police.

The name of a Gainesville-based political action committee, Win America PAC, is at the end of the text as well as an option to opt out of future texts from it.

Fair enough? Maybe not. That could be for the state to decide.

Trish Robertson, a spokesperson for the Supervisor of Elections office, said the office has been besieged with phone calls and emails from concerned recipients of the text messages. The office, she said, is equally concerned.

“What we were concerned about mostly was due to the fact that these messages had inaccurate information,” she said. “…People were sent text messages that indicated they requested a vote-by-mail ballot when they in fact did not.”

She said many who contacted the office said they feared someone may have erroneously asked for a mail ballot in their name and wanted to set the record straight. They worried about repercussions, or their actual vote being thrown out.

“Bottom line for us is it loses confidence in the elections process,” Robertson said. “You know, we already have a difficult time when it comes to the smaller elections getting turnout. We also want voters to feel secure in that their vote is going to count and it's going to be a fair election. When you send text messages like this, it does not help our cause.”

It's important to note, an overwhelming majority of voters would never receive text messages from the Supervisor of Elections office, that is unless they have opted in to do so.

Last week the office launched a service called Text My Gov for voters who actually do want to receive legitimate text messages from the office. So far 600 people opted to do so, Robertson said. “Otherwise there will never be any text from the Supervisor of Elections Office."

For those that do opt in the Text My Gov, Robertson wants them to know this: “We would never send a text message about candidates and the candidates’ campaigns. We are strictly a nonpartisan office so we would never send anything out that had a candidate's name, or information or a link to their alleged website. We would never do that.”

An investigation from the state could be forthcoming. Robertson tells WGCU the Supervisor of Elections has forwarded all complaints, screen shots and correspondence from to and from the WIN America PAC to the state’s Office of Elections, Crimes and Security.

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