Wanna commit absentee-ballot fraud?
Well, all you need is a computer, a telephone and a dummy address. Armed with that, there’s a good chance you can request and vote another person’s absentee ballot.
It’s a felony. It’s not a guaranteed method to cast a fraudulent vote that counts. And it’s unlikely it could happen in big enough numbers to change an election.
But chances are you won’t get caught because it can be done anonymously.
You can thank the Republican-led Legislature for all that.
Republicans in Florida dominate absentee balloting, which they’ve made easy. They have little incentive to limit it, even though nonpartisan groups like the 2006 U.S. Elections Assistance Commission noted that “absentee balloting is subject to the greatest proportion of fraudulent acts, followed by vote buying and voter registration fraud.”
Since and before that report, Republicans in the Legislature and governor’s office have instead scaled back anti-fraud reforms instituted after an absentee-ballot scandal in the 1997 Miami mayor’s race.
Meantime, they passed a 2011 law limiting voter-registration drives and early-voting hours.
Democrats are early voters in the same way that Republicans are absentee-ballot voters — especially in Miami-Dade’s Cuban-American community, where mail-in voting is highly popular.
So Republicans are cool to the idea of more absentee-ballot regulations even in the wake of Wednesday’s arrest of Hialeah ballot broker Deisy Cabrera.
“We should be careful not to over-react and potentially stigmatize the vote-by-mail process or make the process more difficult by creating obstacles to voting by mail,” U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican from Miami, said in a statement, echoing his comments on Spanish-language radio.
“This would only result in suppressing the vote of Cuban-Americans, many of whom prefer or require voting by mail, and disenfranchising this critical Republican constituency to the benefit of the Democratic Party and its candidates,” he said.
Yup. Suddenly Republicans like Rivera sound like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Democrats grousing about the HB 1355 election law passed in 2011.
Asked about the new law and absentee voter-fraud Friday, Gov. Rick Scott spoke in generalities and said his Secretary of State would be “reviewing it.”
“I want people to vote, but I also want to make sure there’s no fraud involved in elections,” Scott said when he signed HB 1355.
A court has thrown out the voter-registration crackdowns as too burdensome. The cutback in early-voting days is under challenge.
Scott said nothing about Cabrera, charged with violating state and Miami-Dade county laws for possessing 31 voted ballots and allegedly forging an elderly voter’s signature.
Called a “boletera,” the 56-year-old Cabrera hails from an old and dying school of street-level politics where volunteers go door-to-door to help senior citizens receive, vote and mail in their ballots.
Today’s major-campaign absentee-ballot operations rely more on computer queries than boletero shoe leather. A campaign nowadays identifies likely voters with databases, and then phones and mails them to cast their mail-in ballot from home.
No face-to-face contact is needed.