Just two months after Gov. Rick Scott announced the suspension of North Miami's mayor on suspicion of a mortgage-fraud scheme and a year after her campaign treasurer was wrapped up in a ballot fraud probe, North Miami politicians are gearing up for a new round of shenanigans in next month's elections.
North Miami councilman Scott Galvin is asking his constituents to be on the lookout for ballot fraud after receiving an anonymous letter claiming that political operatives are already trying to game the system again in Dade's sixth-largest town.
Galvin's concerns were sparked by a handwritten letter, which included specific warnings that "some people are calling your home pretending to be from the Dept. of Elections; asking to use your absentee ballot for their vote..."
Galvin, the District 1 councilman since 1999, was unable to respond directly to the letter because it was anonymous and didn't say who was behind the latest scheme. So he sent out an email blast this week asking residents to be on the lookout for similar situations.
"I appreciate that residents trust me, but without anything specific we cannot do much," Galvin tells Riptide. "The good thing is that this will put everyone's radar up in the coming weeks."
The councilman has good reason to be wary. In May, Lucie Tondreau, who was elected in June 2013 as the city's first Haitian-American female mayor, was suspended while she faces federal charges for a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme.
Prior to that, state prosecutors linked online absentee-ballot requests made in bulk to her campaign. Police raided her campaign office last November and found a number of absentee-ballot request forms in a car driven by Nacivre Charles, her campaign treasurer. Charles, a well-known campaign strategist in town, was arrested for driving with a suspended license, but neither he nor Tondreau has been charged in the ballot fraud investigation.
On August 26, North Miami residents will choose a new mayor from three candidates -- former mayor Kevin Burns, former councilman Jean Marcellus, and ex-mayoral candidate Smith Joseph -- vying to replace the suspended Tondreau.
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If fraud does arise, Galvin asks that residents mail their absentee ballots directly to the Department of Elections, and if operatives call to pressure them to send in an absentee ballot, he asks that they write down the phone number to get "something that's actionable."
The State of Florida prepays postage to try to avoid fraud issues. State law also prohibits that ballot requests come from anyone other than the voters and their family.
"I just want residents to be aware and keep their eyes open," Galvin says.