Voter Intimidation in Pasco Schools? | News
Pasco County, Florida- It's an incident gaining national attention- a volunteer with the Obama campaign is allowed to enter a bay area high school, register students and speak to classes, yet other political groups are denied the same opportunity.
Does this break any laws? Well, that's the question at hand. Posing as a worker with the Supervisor of Elections office is considered to be a crime.
The Republican Party of Pasco County has filed complaints with the State Attorney's Office and the state's Division of Elections. That office is looking into possible voter intimidation.
If there's evidence, the case will be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and some think what's happened in Pasco is not an isolated incident.
"Politics should not be in the schools," says Carol Lee Schmidt, whose son attends Gulf High School.
She says last month a volunteer from President Obama's campaign, Organizing for America, gained access to her son's school by allegedly posing as a worker with the Supervisor of Elections Office, and her visit was not bi-partisan.
Carol Lee recounts what her son told her, "He said she had Obama stickers all over her clip board- trying to promote to register for Obama."
Carol Lee says the volunteer also made partisan comments about issues such as abortion.
She says, "They were asking her questions: 'Does she approve of abortions?'- she says 'Yes, where Mitt Romney doesn't approve of abortions.'"
Internal school district emails obtained through public records requested by the Republican Party of Pasco County shows principals at two other high schools were under the same impression- that the volunteers registering students to vote worked for the Supervisor of Elections, but they did not.
Carol Lee says, "There should have been equal time. They had somebody representing Obama. They should have someone representing Romney- not one sided."
"I think it's underhanded," says Bill Bunting, the Republican State Committeeman for Pasco County's Republican Party.
Bill says his attempts to speak to students at Gulf High School were canceled twice, once by the principal and the second time by Superintendent Heather Fiorentino.
"These kids are impressionable. They're (Obama supporters) are getting in, and they can swing an election...that's what's important to us," says Bill.
The following statement was released by the Organizing for America group:
"This incident represents a simple misunderstanding regarding a volunteer who is no longer with our organization. All of our volunteers go through a rigorous and extensive training process to ensure they comply with all laws when registering voters. A month ago, immediately after the incident in question, the volunteer apologized to the school. As the Pasco County School Superintendent has indicated in the press, the school has moved on from this and so have we," said Obama for America-Florida Spokesman Eric Jotkoff.
Carol Lee says, "To me, it was under false pretenses. They should not have been there in the first place."
The district does not allow partisan speakers in the classroom and that's why the Republican representative was not allowed to speak at Gulf High School.
Neither Pasco's School Superintendent nor any other school district official would go on camera, but they say this is an active investigation- one they hope to resolve soon.