A supporter of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is accused of stuffing the ballot box at Saturday’s straw poll in Sarasota conducted by the Republican Party of Sarasota. The allegations delayed the results of the straw ballot from being announced publicly.
“The results of the straw poll conducted during the rally are still being worked on,” the local party said in a news release. “The Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee will be meeting Sunday to ensure the integrity of the vote count before releasing the final results.”
More than 1,200 people attended the rally and straw ballot in Sarasota. One of them was Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, a DeSantis supporter, who is accused of stuffing the ballot box with ballots marked for DeSantis.
“I have several witnesses who told me that Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, a DeSantis supporter and former failed gubernatorial candidate, is stuffing ballot boxes with ballots marked for DeSantis at today’s statewide straw poll in Sarasota,” said Meredith Beatrice, spokeswoman for DeSantis’ opponent, Adam Putnam. “She is taking them away from event organizers when they aren’t looking and trying to cook the books.”
Cuevas-Neunder admitted to Florida Politics of taking extra ballots but rejected the notion she did anything wrong.
Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, a member of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, admits she grabbed and handed out around 15 ballots to people at sitting with or around her at the Sarasota event. But she says no one voted twice, and that any problem should be attributed to poor event organization.
“What happened was instead of giving people ballots, they didn’t do that. They were forcing people to get pies first,” Cuevas-Neunder said.
This year, organizers of the rally and straw poll in Sarasota required participants to get a piece of pie from a local restaurant in order to receive a straw ballot. The requirement was designed to keep attendees at the event longer to hear from a full slate of GOP candidates.
Cuevas-Neunder says once she learned participants had to wait in a long line for a piece of pie before they could get a straw ballot, she went to the ballot table and asked a volunteer for ballots for her and her friends.
Word of the alleged ballot box stuffing by Cuevas-Neunder brought quick criticism from the Putnam campaign.
This is atrocious and embarrassing behavior on part of the DeSantis camp,” said Beatrice. “Are they that afraid to face Adam Putnam on a level playing field?”
Recent polls have shown DeSantis building momentum after receiving the endorsement of President Donald Trump earlier this summer. Polls conducted by Florida Atlantic University and Mason-Dixon Polling have put him as frontrunner in the race for the GOP nomination.