Hialeah Ballot Broker Arrested, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle Recuses Herself

In a case that's likely to follow incumbent County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle right up to Election Day, a Hialeah boletera -- or absentee ballot broker -- has been arrested and charged with illegally collecting ballots. Critics have long charged that boleteras illegally swing elections by coercing elderly voters to fill out absentee ballots for their candidates.

It's still unclear whom that broker, Deisy Cabrera, was working for, but Rundle -- who faces a election on August 14 -- has now recused herself because "a person who has been assisting in (her) campaign was alleged to have been seen in the company" of Cabrera.

Cabrera, a 56-year-old well known in the Hialeah political scene, faces a third-degree felony charge of absentee ballot fraud and a pair of misdemeanors under a new law making it illegal to possess more than two other ballots.

She's accused of gathering at least 31 ballots for the August primary, mostly from elderly voters, the Herald reports.

Police spent two days following her around Hialeah after getting tipped off by a private investigator; in addition to collecting stacks of ballots, they watched her go into a nursing room to visit a woman identified as Z.G., who signed a ballot for her. When police later visited, they found Z.G. "unresponsive," suggesting she couldn't have willingly voted on her own.

Both Rundle and Gimenez have been attacked by opponents for supposed links to Cabrera, but neither investigators nor Cabrera have said yet whom she was working for.

Rundle, in a memo (which you can read in full over at Crespo Gram), says she's recusing herself to "avoid even the possibility that my pending election could cause any distraction to the prosecution of this case."

Gov. Rick Scott will have to appoint another prosecutor to handle the case against Cabrera in Rundle's absence.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink