MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Manatee County man is being accused of voter fraud after authorities say he requested a mail-in ballot for his wife, who died two years ago.
On Friday, Larry Wiggins spoke exclusively to 8 On Your Side after he was released from Manatee County Jail.
“I heard so much about ballots being sent in and people just having found them in different places,” said Mr. Wiggins. “I feel like I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The 62 year-old said he was just testing Florida’s voting system.
Now, he’s charged with requesting a vote-by-mail ballot on behalf of another elector, a third-degree felony.
According to the arrest report, election officials received two vote-by-mail ballot request applications from a husband and wife.
Election officials confirmed the woman, Ursula Wiggins, had died in 2018.
They also said the signature on the woman’s application did not match the handwriting on her original voter registration documents.
Mr. Wiggins admits he filled out Ursula’s application and put it in the mail. However, he said he never planned on voting twice and says he didn’t try to duplicate his late wife’s signature.
“I said well, let me just send it in and see what’s going to happen to see if they’re actually going to send a ballot for her to vote,” said Mr. Wiggins.
Manatee County Elections Supervisor Michael Bennett didn’t send a ballot; instead, he sent deputies.
“It really maybe hasn’t set in on me totally,” said Mr. Wiggins, a self-described Democrat who supports President Donald Trump.
“Is he being used as a cautionary tale to warn others?” asked Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“If there’s nothing else that comes out of this conversation,” said Mr. Bennett, “… to warn other people.”
With Election Day around the corner, Mr. Bennett said his office is processing up to 500 vote-by-mail request applications a day. Approximately, half of the voters are already properly signed up. Mr. Bennett puts the blame directly on outside voting groups.
“My staff is working overtime,” said Mr. Bennett, “…trying to solve all of these and trying to get back to people and let them know, hey, you’re already registered.”
Florida is a major battleground state and across our 67 counties, these groups are sending vote-by-mail request applications to voters.
Elections officials want to stress even requesting a ballot for someone else is a felony.
Mr. Wiggins is relieved the system worked; however, he does not want a criminal record.
8 On Your Side is working to confirm the identity of the outside voting group.