In the Haitian community ballot brokers are often part of a loose network of voting-booth translators and radio hosts that at least in theory are meant to help guide newly minted voters through the electoral process one that can be doubly perplexing given the unfamiliarity of the language and a frequent distrust of government.
Back in Haiti, when voting is being carried out, theres no guarantee that every vote will count because the process has always been tainted, said Jocelyn McCalla, a New York-based political analyst and former director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. There is a notion when you vote in the U.S. your vote will count because the process is not tainted.
McCalla notes that the frequent practice of filling out a ballot with the assistance of a third party, or relying on the so-called translators who escort voters to polling booths to help them with their selections even though Miami-Dade ballots are printed in Creole as well as Spanish and English can be problematic.
When a middle man comes in between, your vote can be diverted, McCalla said.
During election season, dollars from political campaigns fuel an onslaught of advertisements and interviews on Haitian radio, billboards in Creole pop up in Little Haiti, and candidates, many of whom dont speak Creole, sit in the front pews of Haitian churches for some much-desired face time with potential voters.
On Haitian radio, hosts and paid advertisements during elections tell listeners to call translators or helpers to assist them with their absentee ballots or on voting day. Observers say that although ballots are printed in Creole, some Haitian voters are not necessarily literate in their native language and rely on trusted figures in Haitian media and the community to inform them about candidates.
It is not illegal for voters to receive help filling out their absentee ballots so long as the person who is assisting does not override the voters choices or fraudulently sign the ballot for a voter.
The problem is getting neutral information to the community by parties who are not compromised. That is a pity in the Haitian community because the people rely on Haitian radio and the people who dominate the airwaves have a far more significant impact on the Haitian community than say, an email or other communications, said McCalla.
While ballot brokering in predominantly Haitian neighborhoods is relatively new there is not yet a Creole word equivalent to the Spanish boletero the practice is growing in prominence with each election season.
Volney Nerette, who hosts Ecoutez La Voix Du Peuples Listen to the Voice of the People a Creole-language voter-education program on Radio Mega 1700 AM, asks listeners to call on him if they need help to request an absentee ballot or to fill one out.
Nerette is also a paid political consultant. He said there is no conflict .
When someone calls me, I dont tell them Im there from a campaign. That person called me for help, he said.
Last year, he earned $7,000 as a political consultant in the North Miami Beach mayoral and council election races. Nerette says his duties were mostly to advise candidates.
During elections, candidates pay people to go on Haitian radio to help people because they are looking for ballots to collect. Im a professional; I dont touch the ballots, he said.