Technically, lawyers aren’t required to report their unseemly boleteros encounters, either by state law or by the bar code of ethics.
“The Code of Professional Responsibility embodies a code of ethics for lawyers and establishes the floor below which an attorney’s conduct should not sink. It does not specifically address an obligation to report criminal behavior that one may generally observe in our society,” said Jan L. Jacobowitz, director of the Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program at the University of Miami School of Law, by e-mail.
“However, the legal code of ethics certainly does not preclude a judicial candidate or any other member of society from acting upon a sense of a moral obligation to report suspected criminal conduct, especially of the type that threatens honest elections, which lay at the foundation of our democracy,” Jacobowitz added.
“In fact,” she stated, “as officers of the court, you would certainly expect that lawyers running for judicial office would immediately report suspected absentee ballot fraud.”
Last week, the Miami-Dade County Commission, mindful of the pall over the county’s elections, voted to pay the return postage for absentee ballots in countywide elections. The commissioners hoped the price of a stamp might eliminate voters’ rationale for turning their ballots over to boleteros. Commissioner Esteban Bovo said the measure would eliminate the “excuse for somebody to knock on your door and offer you a stamp and offer to take [your ballot] to a mailbox.” (Oddly enough, this latest scandal involves a broker who stashed 164 filled-out ballots at this very same Commissioner Bovo’s office. A county ordinance passed last year in another tepid attempt to rein in boleteros bars any one person from possessing more than two.)
Of course, the new ordinance might also have the unhappy effect of simply lowering the cost of the illegal ballot brokering business. Boleteros who collect absentees from voters, sometimes directing them how to vote, sometimes filling out the ballots themselves, can now just drop the postage-paid ballots in the mail.
There’s a sure-fire solution. Our elected officials can eliminate boleteros from Miami-Dade’s corrupted political culture by not using them. By not paying them. And when one of these electoral crooks offers to gin up the vote total with a bundle of absentee ballots, outcomes guaranteed, honest candidates can do what they’ve failed to do so far. Pick up the phone. Call the cops. Clean up these elections.