Miami-Dade police and prosecutors are investigating a candidate for the Sweetwater commission in a case linked to allegations of possessing absentee ballots that belong to other people.
Police from the public corruptions unit detained Saul Díaz Monday in Sweetwater and found several absentee ballots in his car, sources told El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23. Díaz was not arrested but is under investigation.
Díaz confirmed to Univision 23 that he was stopped by police but flatly denied that he was carrying absentee ballots and said the police found only lists of registered voters in the vehicle.
It’s illegal for anyone to have two or more absentee ballots that do not belong to them or to close relatives.
Responding to a public records request from Univision 23/El Nuevo Herald, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said in an email that no documents were available at this time.
Four commission seats are up for grabs in Sweetwater’s elections on May 9.
Díaz issued a statement Thursday saying that he was not aware of any investigation and accused Miami-Dade County Commissioner José “Pepe” Díaz, a former mayor of Sweetwater, of promoting the false allegations against him.
The commissioner is backing a group of candidates who oppose the group around Saul Díaz, who is close to current Sweetwater Mayor Orlando López
“What I can say is, this is most likely one more invention by County Commissioner José “Pepe” Díaz, because he’s doing everything possible to block the election of decent human beings who would force him to take his claws off our city,” Saul Díaz declared.
Pepe Díaz denied any role in the case. “I have nothing to do with the police stopping a person and catching him with absentee ballots,” he said. “How can they even remotely link me to this?”
Sweetwater has a long history of absentee vote irregularities, and allegations usually fly during campaign periods.
City commissioner Manuel Duasso and Isolina Maroño, the mother of then-Mayor Manuel Maroño, were detained in 2007 with several absentee ballots in a vehicle they were riding in. Investigators determined that the collection of absentee ballots was a common practice in Sweetwater. At the time, there was no law against collecting other people’s ballots.
Isolina Maroño was appointed to a vacant commission seat in 2012 and was elected to the seat the following year.
Miami-Dade County has seen several vote fraud cases in recent years. A temporary employee of the Elections Department was arrested in October for manipulating votes in the mayoral race, and another woman was arrested for illegally filling in voter registration forms.