PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Justice will soon be served for hundreds of Florida voters, after a man from Washington state admitted that he tried to keep local Republicans from turning out in the 2012 presidential election. That man could soon be headed to prison.
State and federal agencies first started looking into possible voter fraud in Palm Beach County in the fall of 2012.
Investigators say Bob Hiering of Delray Beach, a Republican, was one of the targets. "When I got that letter, I was like 'Are you kidding me?'," he said of a letter received just before the 2012 presidential election - with a postmark from Seattle, Washington.
"I got a letter in the mail questioning my citizenship and my ability to vote," said Hiering.
Approximately two hundred Floridians - all with connections to the Republican party - received the mailings. The letters appeared to be official, labeled with the logos of the county's supervisor of elections office. The message in the letter prompted recipients to provide personal information to elections officials or be disqualified from voting altogether.
"It's a major violation of our constitution and of our rights in this country," said Hiering. "You shouldn't be able to get away with that."
James Webb Baker, Jr., 58, of Seattle, Washington recently admitted to federal investigators that he was behind all of it. Baker told the U.S. Department of Justice that he was angered by what he believed was an attempt to suppress hispanic voter turnout for Democratic party candidates. Baker said he created the fake voter eligibility letters to intimidate and interfere with GOP recipients' right to vote.
"We're fighting the fraud wherever we find it," said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. "This is an extremely serious crime. This is a federal offense and the Department of Justice was quick to react," she said.
Baker pleaded guilty to ID Fraud and also Intimidation of Voters. He faces a maximum of six years in prison and fines up to $350,000. A judge will sentence Baker in September.
Hiering, who alerted authorities of the potential fraud, did cast his vote back in 2012 but wonders if Baker's actions kept others from doing the same.
"God knows how many people got letters and said 'I guess I can't vote' and just didn't vote because they didn't want to go through the hassle," he said. "And that's probably what his goal was."