Two men knocked on the door of Betty Brockingtons bright orchid-pink Homestead house Wednesday night, asking for her familys four absentee ballots. They worked for political campaigns, they said, and could take care of mailing them.
Brockington named the candidates she, her husband and two nieces wanted to vote for in the Nov. 5 city mayor and council races. The two men sat in a pair of chairs on the porch, filled out the ballots out of the familys sight and stuffed them in ballot envelopes.
Brockington and her husband, Willie Snead, both 54, and their younger niece, Taquesha Robinson, 19, signed the envelopes without reviewing the ballots.
But when it was the older nieces turn, 22-year-old Robkevia Scott, who had been watching South Beach Tow on television while the men sat in the porch, refused to give the men her ballot.
She grabbed it back and realized the two men had filled the bubbles for precisely the candidates the family did not support: mayoral candidate Mark Bell and council candidate Norman Hodge Jr.
I didnt want to vote for those people, Scott said.
Scott contacted the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, which has followed up with the family over the apparent absentee-ballot fraud. The Miami-Dade state attorneys office has also been alerted. Both agencies declined to comment about any potential investigations.
Miami-Dade elections have been plagued by absentee-fraud scandals since last summer, when two Hialeah ballot brokers known as boleteros√ were arrested. Deisy Cabrera and Sergio El Tío Robaina have since pleaded no contest and received probation.
Earlier this year, after a Miami Herald report, prosecutors reopened an investigation into hundreds of phony absentee-ballot requests submitted online, which they have linked to Congressman Joe Garcias 2012 campaign. No arrests have been made.
Ever since Miami-Dade County tightened up some absentee ballot legislation, it has been illegal for anyone to possess ballots other than their own. The only exception is for an immediate family member or legal guardian.
The Homestead incident was first reported by the Political Cortadito blog.
At least one of the two men who filled out the Brockington familys ballots, James Brady, the corresponding secretary for the Miami-Dade Republican Party, works for Bell, the husband of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell. Brockington and Scott identified a photograph of Brady, who went to school with one of Brockingtons sons.
The second man remains unidentified. Brockington and Scott described him only as Haitian.
On Friday, Brady denied filling out or collecting any ballots. Mark Bell denied that his campaign engages in any absentee-ballot brokering.
They accused Brockington and Scott of lying at the behest of a rival political operative, Timothy Milton.
What I think is happening is Mr. Milton is upset because our team is gathering ABs, Bell said. He quickly corrected himself. Not gathering them, you know what I mean, but talking to voters.
Milton, who works for mayoral candidate Jeff Porter and Councilman Jimmie Williams III, did not respond to a request for comment left on his cell phone or to a message left in person at his Homestead home.
But Brockington, who said she has known Milton for years because he has distributed fliers for campaigns, said he had nothing to do with Wednesdays incident.