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Three in Florida, Virginia charged with voter fraud

(Reuters) - Officials in Florida and Virginia filed voter fraud charges against three people in apparently unrelated cases on Friday, just 11 days before American voters cast ballots in the hotly contested presidential race.

An election volunteer holds a box outside Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The charges targeted a Florida woman and a Virginia man accused of filing bogus voter registration forms and a Florida woman alleged to have tampered with absentee ballots she was opening at the Miami-Dade Elections Department.

In the Iowa capital of Des Moines, county election officials referred three cases of suspected voter fraud to police earlier this week, leading to one arrest on Thursday, police said.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has charged in recent weeks that the election will be rigged in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton, though he has shown no proof for these claims and many Republicans have called them unfounded.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in Florida said that 74-year-old Gladys Coego had been working as an absentee ballot opener when a supervisor allegedly saw her changing ballots that had been left blank to support a mayoral candidate. Prosecutors said that Coego admitted to marking the ballots and was charged with two felony counts of marking or designating the ballot of another.

“The integrity of the electoral process is intact because our procedures work,” said Christina White, the county’s election supervisor, in a statement.

Tomika Curgil, 33, was charged with five felony counts of submitting false voter registration information for allegedly handing in forms filled out by fictitious voters while working on a voter-registration drive for a medical marijuana advocacy group.

A Virginia man was also charged with submitting falsified forms while working for a voter-registration campaign, state prosecutors said.

Vafalay Massaquoi, 30, was arraigned on two felony counts of forging a public record and two counts of voter registration fraud.

“There is no allegation that any illegal vote was actually cast in this case,” said Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. “Furthermore, since the fraudulent applications involved fictitious people, had the fraud not been uncovered, the risk of actual fraudulent votes being cast was low.”

Neither Coego, Curgil nor Massaquoi could be reached for immediate comment.

Police in Des Moines on Thursday arrested a woman who was accused of voting twice - casting early-voting ballots at two locations - in one of three cases of suspected voter fraud reported by the Polk County Auditor’s Office.

Police did not disclose the political affiliation of the woman, identified as Terri Lynn Rote, 55, but the Des Moines Register newspaper reported she was a registered Republican.

A man in Texas, where early voting started on Monday, was arrested on Monday on charges of electioneering and loitering near a polling place, public records show.

The man, Brett Mauthe, had been charged for showing up to vote in a Trump hat and T-shirt with the phrase “basket of deplorables,” a reference to a comment Clinton made disparaging her rivals’ supporters, election officials told media.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Macfie