Gov. Rick Scott Paid $5,000 to an Accused Ballot Collector

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been dead serious about cleaning up Florida's elections. First, he targeted 180,000 suspected ineligible voters to strike from the rolls (though he ended up eliminating only 200 after the Department of Justice stepped in). Then, he severely restricted voter registration and reduced early voting.

Yet strangely, the guv hasn't lifted a single finger to stop the one crime that's really threatening the November election: absentee-ballot fraud. In Miami-Dade County, five losing candidates in the August primaries have filed lawsuits alleging ballot hanky-panky, and two Hialeah ballot collectors — or boleteros — have been arrested.

So why has Scott ignored the issue? Maybe it's because he knows he'll need his own absentee shenanigans to win.

Consider: In 2010, even though he lost early voting and Election Day balloting in Miami-Dade County, Scott killed Democrat Alex Sink in absentee ballots by 20,745 votes. They helped provide the difference in Scott's one-percentage-point victory.

Now there's new evidence that Scott used boleteros in Dade. Records show the governor paid $5,000 to Emelina Llanes, a 74-year-old Hialeah resident identified as a boletera by former Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños and city firefighter Eric Johnson. Scott's campaign reports say the money was for "contract labor."

During Hialeah's mayoral race last year, Llanes worked for Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez. Bolaños and Johnson, who supported Hernandez's opponent, Raul Martinez, followed Llanes to public-housing apartment complexes at 1470 and 1480 W. 38th Place before the election. They claim they spotted Llanes going door-to-door to pick up absentee ballots from elderly residents — a violation of county law.

"When she came out, we approached her because we believed she was carrying ballots," Bolaños says. "She started yelling that she was being violated and that she had chest pains."

The ex-cop says Llanes, who allegedly had the ballots in a bag, ran into an apartment. When two Hialeah Police officers responded to the scene, they found no ballots, and Llanes denied the accusations.

Riptide left a note at Llanes's Hialeah residence asking her for comment, but she did not respond. Scott's media office referred questions to the Republican Party of Florida, whose spokeswoman, Kristen McDonald, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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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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