By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

ST. PETERSBURG — It was just a few months ago that Democratic U.S. Rep.Ted Deutch, of District 19, was ridiculing claims of voter fraud in Florida elections, accusing Republicans and ballot integrity groups of succumbing to the “voter fraud bogeyman.”

“The story they tell is one of rampant voter fraud that threatens the integrity of our elections and the very foundation of our democracy. It’s a scary story,” Deutch sarcastically stated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2011. “Just imagine, mobs of illegally registered voters entering our poll booths and hijacking our elections.”

To that very end, he penned a letter to Gov. Rick Scott with Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation, staunchly opposing the state’s push to remove ineligible voters from the registration rolls and claiming that voter fraud “did not exist” in the Sunshine State.

But now that suspected voter registration fraud has sprung up in Palm Beach County, tied to a private firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida, Deutch is all too ready to summon the very voter fraud bogeyman he so clearly denounced in public speeches and statements.

“In light of the large and apparently growing voter fraud scandal engulfing the Republican party of Florida,” wrote Deutch to Scott on Monday, “I urge you to immediately appoint a bipartisan task force to investigates these allegations and ensure that the integrity of our voting rolls not be comprised.”

This is a stark contrast to Deutch’s early contention that quibbles about voter fraud were not only overblown, but also part of an organized conspiracy to steal votes from Democratic constituencies.

“It is important to remember, Governor Scott, that Florida has never encountered problems with mass voter fraud,” said Deutch. “The voter fraud bogeyman may be a scary story, but it cannot compare to the very real and very blatant voter suppression efforts of Republican legislatures across America.

“This is a deliberate and ongoing effort to suppress the votes of America’s minorities, seniors, students and other traditionally Democratic voters,” Deutch added.

Deutch’s office refused to comment.

While Deutch may be new to acknowledging voter fraud, some groups have been aiming to highlight and expose the problem for several years.

“It’s fascinating when you see lawmakers who deny voter fraud up until the moment when differing evidence comes to light,” said Logan Churchwell of True the Vote, a nonpartisan voter integrity group based in Houston. “Then they try to exact a political advantage from it, that’s just a sad state of affairs.”

Read more: Florida Watchdog