By Cristina Corbin
Published September 26, 2012
Recent allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Florida have shined a light on the shadowy work of so-called “boleteros” – absentee ballot brokers who, in some cases, have been accused of cajoling, bribing and even forging the names of unsuspecting voters.
The most recent claim involves Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who hired an alleged “boletero” for his 2010 campaign. In Scott’s case, the campaign claims it did nothing wrong and indeed nobody has been charged. But the claim follows the arrest of a boletero in a separate case, and coincides with a wave of coverage and attention in the Miami-Dade, Fla., area surrounding what for authorities is an illicit practice.
Boleteros — translated roughly to mean ticket-person — assist in collecting absentee ballots and helping primarily elderly and disabled voters in filling them out. This can be entirely lawful, but sometimes these workers walk a fine legal line.
For many boleteros, it can be a profitable enterprise – with some guaranteeing votes in exchange for money, authorities say. They are particularly prominent in heavily Republican Spanish-speaking communities, like Hialeah.
Under Florida law, it is legal to assist voters in ensuring their absentee ballots are properly mailed. But it’s illegal to influence voters, request ballots on behalf of someone else and forge signatures. The state no longer requires witness signatures on absentee ballots, officials note, and many of the boleteros will illegally “follow the ballots all through the process.”
“This is a dirty business and unfortunately it’s become pretty common.”
– Joe Centerino, director of Miami-Dade’s Ethics Commission