In the name of election integrity, Florida governor Rick Scott (R) has aggressively pursued voter purges, restricted voter registration drives and reduced early voting hours. However, his campaign finance reports reveal Scott’s 2010 campaign paid $5,000 to an accused absentee ballot broker for unspecified “contract labor.”
Before the 2011 municipal elections, 74-year-old Hialeh resident Emelina Llanes was accused of being a boletera, or someone who ostensibly helps voters deliver their ballots, but often tries to influence or bribe voters as they fill them out. Llanes, who worked for Mayor Carlos Hernandez at the time, visited elderly members of the community to talk to them about politics and delivered dozens of ballots.
Though records show Scott hired her for his gubernatorial campaign, her work for him remains unclear. Ballot brokering is one of the few methods of voter fraud that is in fact a problem in Miami-Dade County; other boleteros have been charged with forging signatures and taking advantage of senile voters. The Miami Herald’s report on boleteros may provide some insight into Scott’s payment:
“The ‘boleteros’ hover on the edge of the letter and spirit of the law,” said Christian Ulvert, a top state Democratic campaign consultant who has run races in Little Havana and Miami Beach.
“These boleteros in Miami Dade have become like some political consultants,” Ulvert added. “You don’t want them working for you. But you don’t want them working against you. So some candidates figure you just have to pay them.”
Scott won his seat by a margin of 20,745 absentee ballots in 2010. His voter suppression initiatives, such as his unsuccessful attempt to restrict voter registration drives and early voting schedules, have been mostly blocked by judges due to their impact on minority communities.