Posted: 11:46 am EDT October 27, 2010Updated: 2:21 pm EDT October 27, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona Beach City Commissioner Derrick Henry and his campaign manager, Genesis Robinson, were arrested Wednesday, charged with committing absentee ballot fraud during Henry’s 2010 re-election campaign, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said. Henry is nonpartisan, which means he has no party affiliation.
The arrest of Henry and Robinson comes a little more than two months after Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall requested an investigation into irregularities in absentee ballot requests coming into her office. McFall brought her concerns to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in August, prompting the Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office to immediately launch a joint investigation that ultimately led to the filing of a dozen felony charges against Henry and Robinson.
The investigation revealed that Henry and Robinson devised a strategy to boost Henry’s re-election bid by obtaining absentee ballots for numerous people, most of whom never requested the ballots. By law, residents are only allowed to request absentee ballots for themselves, immediate family members or for someone for whom they’re acting as legal guardian.
McFall filed the complaint in August after her office received a large number of requests for absentee ballots that were all sent from the same e-mail address. Based on the e-mail address, it appeared that the requests came from someone with an interest in the Daytona Beach City Commission Zone 5 race. Henry, the Zone 5 incumbent who was locked in a three-way primary race, was re-elected on Aug. 24.
The investigation revealed that between Henry and Robinson, they had requested a total of 92 absentee ballots through the elections office’s web site. Four of the absentee ballots were found at Henry’s house when investigators searched it in September. Investigators also recovered absentee ballot applications and receipts for some of the absentee ballots along with handbooks outlining Florida election laws.
Investigators interviewed some of the 92 people for whom absentee ballots were requested and said they were told a variety of stories. One resident said she received an absentee ballot in the mail even though she hadn’t requested one. A few days later, she said one of Henry’s campaign workers showed up at her house and asked if she had received her ballot and had filled it out. The resident said she got the ballot while the campaign worker waited. Then she filled it out, sealed and signed the ballot and turned it over to the campaign worker.
In another case, a man said he didn’t request the ballots and hasn’t lived or voted in Florida in more than two decades.
Henry also had requested an absentee ballot for his niece, listing her address as a home registered to Henry that was located within Zone 5. But investigators discovered that even though the niece used the absentee ballot to vote in the Zone 5 race, she actually lives at a different location in the city, outside of Zone 5.
Investigators also spoke to several others who confirmed that they hadn’t asked for an absentee ballot and had no idea that the Henry campaign had requested a ballot for them.
During an interview with investigators, Robinson acknowledged coming up with the strategy of applying on-line for absentee ballots, saying that Henry had approved the idea back in April when Robinson presented it to him. Robinson said it was done in an effort to increase voter turnout and improve Henry’s chances of re-election. Henry was re-elected in the municipal election with 65 percent of the vote, beating his nearest competitor by nearly 600 votes.
Based on the findings, Circuit Court Judge R. Michael Hutcheson issued arrest warrants Wednesday morning for both Henry and Robinson.
Henry, 41, is charged with two counts of absentee ballots and voting violations, nine counts of being a principal to absentee ballots and voting violations and one count of conspiracy to commit absentee ballots and voting violations.
Robinson, 21, is facing 11 counts of being a principal to absentee ballots and voting violations and one count of conspiracy to commit absentee ballots and voting violations.
All of the charges are third-degree felonies.
Late Wednesday morning, both defendants surrendered to investigators with the Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office. They will be transported to the Volusia County branch jail in Daytona Beach on $6,000 bond each.
Henry has been put on administrative leave, with pay, from his position at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. He's an assistant principal and has worked there for 18 years.