These are complicated stories to unravel, and sometimes they’re even more complicated to explain. No one actually received the absentee ballots that were fraudulently requested, so no fraudulent votes were ever cast. Caputo told me he thinks it’s unlikely that was ever even the point, because the signatures on absentee ballots are hand checked against the signatures on file. He thinks whoever requested the ballots was trying to bring in voters who otherwise wouldn’t have made it to the polls. The requests asked that the ballots be sent to the voters’ addresses. The only reason to do that would be so the campaigns could then target those voters with phone calls or mailers, increasing their likelihood of voting. But those votes would still be legal votes, in theory.

“Voter fraud is not easy to do, but if you are going to commit voter fraud, absentee ballots are the easiest way to do it,” Caputo said.

In theory, the Republican-led Florida legislature cares about making sure votes are legal. But in practice, it’s hard to understand their actions.

“They passed bills that restricted the opportunity for voting early under the guise of preventing voter fraud, even though there’s no evidence that early voting is any more vulnerable to fraud than regular voting and it’s less vulnerable than absentee voting, which they didn’t touch,” Caputo explained. In Florida, absentee ballots tend to swing Republican and early voters tend to swing Democratic.

And the scary thing is, there is nothing in Florida’s laws or procedures that would have stopped someone from requesting an absentee ballot be sent to an address that isn’t the voter’s. As an experiment, Caputo last year decided to try to get his own ballot mailed to a co-worker’s home—and it worked.

But that very clear vulnerability was never addressed.

Mazzei worries that the attempted fraud in Miami-Dade might not be caught in other counties.

“Not every county is like Miami-Dade, where staff signs off on every absentee ballot request,” she explained. “Some smaller places might be vulnerable. It could be a big deal if someone tries to do this on a large scale and gets away with it.”

So now Gov. Scott is focused on purging the voter rolls of non-citizens, again. The last time Scott tried this, the effort was so bungled, with a purge list so rife with errors, county elections supervisors finally refused to go along. And who found some of those early errors? The Herald.

Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team.


 

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Susannah Nesmith is a Miami-based freelance writer and the faculty adviser to Barry University's student newspaper, The Barry Buccaneer. Follow her on Twitter @susannahnesmith.