The start of the election season is rekindling fears of the return to action of the local boleteras - the famed protagonists of electoral fraud in South Florida.
The boleteras recruit and handle the absentee ballots of voters, mostly the elderly or disabled, and allegedly persuade them to favor candidates who have hired them - all under the guise of delivering the voters' ballots to the elections department.
In 2012, a boletera scandal erupted in Miami-Dade when the work of a woman named Daisy Cabrera was uncovered.
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Ultimately, Cabrera's shenanigans proved to be minor in the sea of electoral corruption. Interestingly, the Miami-Dade state attorney's office granted immunity to Anamary Pedrosa, a coordinator of several of the boleteras like Cabrera. The move left in the shadows the boletera case which appeared to have links to two state representatives and four judges.
Citing a conflict of interest, the boletera investigation was passed on to the Broward state attorney's office since one of the boleteras worked in the reelection campaigns of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. But it took the Miami-Dade police Public Corruption Unit seven months to send their investigative report to Broward.
The probe revealed that Pedrosa and Cabrera operated in a small universe of about 500 voters, mostly elderly Hispanics, suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's or disabled in other ways. Regardless, who lacked the necessary clarity to reason and choose a candidate.
The investigation also revealed lists of judicial candidates who Pedrosa billed for the services of the boleteras. But the authorities were unable to drill deep enough to get to the root of the scandal. That's a shame.
The handling of absentee ballots to favor a certain candidate is a crime. It also betrays voters' trust in the election system. When that trust is lost, democracy is weaken. In short, voter fraud of any kind is a direct attack on our political system.
As the Aug. 26 primary nears, authorities need to be alert to uncover the newest avalanche of ticket sellers, like the boleteras, willing to undermine our vote and achieve the election of corrupt politicians.
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle is taking measures to prevent electoral fraud this year, including the launching of a phone number to report voting irregularities. The number is 305-547-3300, and you can call it to report wrongdoing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
According to an ordinance proposed by Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa proposed, which passed in 2011, it's forbidden for a person to turn in more than two absentee ballots to the elections department. Violators face a fine and jail time. One possible solution: making mailing an absentee ballot free of a postal charge, taking away a common sales pitch of the boleteras.
Voters should not sell their vote or accept the services of someone who, on the pretext of doing a good deed, fills out their absentee ballots in the way that suits them for payment.
The war against electoral fraud requires continued vigilance. The scandal of the boleteras should not be repeated this election season.