Florida Republicans' Ballot Fraud 2012

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"It will be overwhelmingly in favor of the Republicans," Rodriguez-Taseff, the voting rights attorney, says. "It certainly looks good for Romney unless the Democrats have a large turnout on Election Day. That is the best way to fight against whatever fraud is being committed."

A look at the most recent national elections shows just how thoroughly Republicans dominate absentee voting in Florida.

The most controversial race of all, the 2000 presidential election, is remembered best for the bloody-knuckle fight over hanging chads. But absentees played a much bigger role in Dubya's win. Republicans in Miami-Dade cast 24,000 absentee ballots, compared to 17,000 by Democrats. Though Al Gore beat Bush handily at the polls, the Republican nominee won the absentee vote by 58 to 41 percent.

In 2008, John McCain killed Obama in the absentee-ballot count by 30,000. The president still won Miami-Dade thanks to aggressive early-voting and Election Day turnout.

The GOP machine's absentee advantage is even more obvious in statewide races. In 2010, Rick Scott garnered 20,745 more absentee votes in Miami-Dade than his opponent, Alex Sink — a key factor in squeaking out a 1-percentage-point victory.

It's not just the Republicans' dominance that should concern Obama, though. It's also their top-to-bottom ties to ballot scammers.

Consider Scott. Since taking office, he's been keen on suppressing traditionally Democratic voting methods by placing onerous restrictions on early voting — and even eliminating voting on Sunday, a day when black churches around the state traditionally went to the polls.

He's done nothing, however, to clamp down on absentee-ballot fraud. That could have something to do with the fact that the governor himself has enlisted the help of suspected boleteros in Hialeah and Sweetwater.

In Sweetwater, Scott's 2010 campaign finance reports show he paid Isolina Maroño and three of her relatives a combined $4,500 for "contract labor." Maroño is the same woman at the center of Crespo's fraud accusations. A large number of absentee ballots went to Scott in Maroño's precincts; in one, he received 1,046 votes via absentee ballot, compared to just 440 for Sink.

Scott also paid $5,000 to Emelina Llanes, a Hialeah woman whom Johnson — the firefighter who helped bust his local boleteros this summer — claims is a well-known boletera. Llanes denies collecting absentee ballots for anybody, but records show Scott paid her $5,000 for "contract labor." (A spokeswoman for the governor declined to speak to New Times about either consultant's role in the campaign.)

Scott is not the only prominent GOP member in Florida with close ties to the absentee-ballot fraud machine. Consider Marco Rubio's famous U.S. Senate victory.

Helping Rubio cruise to a surprise win was a political consulting firm owned by Viviana Bovo, the wife of county Commissioner Esteban Bovo. She was paid $19,637 for "political strategy" and "consulting" by Rubio's campaign. But her husband's name has now surfaced in two absentee-ballot scandals.

During the criminal probe into the contested Hialeah city election in 2003, Esteban Bovo was a city councilman. One of his aides, Alfredo Llamedo, told police he'd collected 400 absentee ballots from elderly voters and delivered them to a campaign office, according to investigators. Llamedo, who denied forging any signatures, also told investigators he learned to collect absentee ballots from Sergio Robaina, AKA El Tío.

Indeed, Bovo's name has also resurfaced in the current Hialeah scandal. Robaina's arrest in July came after he dropped off ballots at Bovo's office in late July. Bovo aide Anamary Pedrosa told detectives that El Tío and other boleteros delivered 164 ballots. She later took the ballots to a nearby post office, where the documents were confiscated by detectives.

Bovo has maintained that he has never hired ballot collectors and that he was in the dark about the 164 ballots. Pedrosa resigned from his staff July 27, one day after Robaina's arrest.

Is it pure coincidence that Rubio, while paying thousands to Bovo's firm, also dominated absentee voting? The Cuban-American obliterated opponents Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist with 78,223 absentee votes, compared to 26,533 for Meek and 25,478 for Crist.

Hialeah's resident ballot-fraud expert, Nilo Juri, certainly doesn't buy Bovo's denials. "You can't tell me that someone dumps hundreds of absentee ballots at your office and you didn't know anything about it," he says.

Scores of less prominent Republicans have also been tied up in ballot scandals.

Since Robaina's arrest, El Nuevo Herald has reported that he also worked for the campaigns of state Reps. Manny Diaz Jr., Jose Oliva, and Eddy Gonzalez.

Recently elected property appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera has also been accused of ballot fraud by challenger Pedro Garcia in a lawsuit contesting the election.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.

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