A recent Miami-Dade ethics commission
probe concluded three women residing at an assisted living facility
in North Miami Beach were victims of absentee ballot voter fraud. The
commission's executive director, Joe Centorino, notified officials at
the Park Plaza Retirement Residence that while the investigation did
not turn up enough evidence to file criminal charges, the watchdog
agency did find proof the trio's absentee ballots or related forms
were "altered, forged, or compromised."
The ethics commission's findings provide a disturbing account of how absentee ballots -- which played a major role in helping incumbents win in the recent Miami and Hialeah elections -- are high-jacked by unidentified vote robbers.
The complaint originated with Judith Thompson, a wheel-chair bound Park Plaza resident who suspected her vote for the Nov. 2, 2010 general election had been stolen. When she showed up at her precinct on election day a poll worker informed her she could not cast her ballot because she had already done so by absentee.
About seven weeks later, on December 20, the disabled woman went down to the county's election office with Genius of Despair, a blogger for Eye On Miami, which has written extensively on Thompson's ordeal, to get some answers. Thompson discovered someone had forged her signature on the absentee ballot bearing her name.
During the year-long probe, the ethics commission compared four other documents with Thompson's signature from files at the elections department with the signature on the Nov. 2, 2010 absentee ballot. It did not match the four on file.
"It is likely that someone other than Ms. Thompson cast her vote by absentee ballot," wrote investigator Karl Ross, who found irregularities with absentee ballots for two other Park Plaza residents. For example, Agnes Keyzer's signature on an absentee ballot request form dated Oct. 19, 2010, turned out to be a forgery. The other resident's absentee ballot was rejected by the elections office because someone had marked the signature box with an X.
Investigators made Park Plaza employees who handled residents' mail submit handwriting samples. They were required to print and sign the names of the victims 25 times, but none matched the "forged signature on Ms. Thompson's tainted absentee-ballot" or "the apparent forgery on Ms. Keyzer's absentee ballot request form."
Ross notes that the lack of controls at the assisted living facility made it difficult to establish what exactly happened to the womens' ballots.
"Interviews with staff and administrators made it clear that there is no chain of custody or formal accounting for the receipt and distribution of absentee ballots," Ross wrote. "It is entirely possible that any fraudulent voter documents were prepared by persons linked to political campaigns and not by employees of the ALF."
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