Apparently, Congressman Joe Garcia tried to steal the primary election in the Florida 26th district using an absentee ballot scheme. The Chief of Staff and top political strategist for Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia resigned Friday after being implicated in a scheme to manipulate last year's primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.
Even after Chief of Staff Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, fell on the sword for this scandal. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, served search warrants Friday seeking electronic equipment such as computers, at the homes of Giancarlo Sopo, 30, Joe Garcia’s communications director; and John Estes, 26, his 2012 campaign manager.
With the implication of his Chief of Staff and Communications Director, two of the three most senior officials in most Congressional offices have been implicated. Further a campaign manager plays a vital role in an election and coordinates directly with the candidate. Most candidates for Congress are actively involved in their own campaigns however Congressman Garcia, claims he was unaware of the scheme,
“I’m shocked and disappointed about this,” and that “This is something that hit me from left field. Until today, I had no earthly idea this was going on.”
Florida election law states that only voters, their immediate family members or their legal guardians are allowed to submit requests for absentee ballots. The identified requests were not filled because the elections department’s software flagged them as suspicious.
A Miami Herald investigation found that hundreds of 2,552 fraudulent requests for the Aug. 14 primaries originated from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami. The investigation discovered that the ballot requests targeted Democratic voters in Garcia’s congressional district indicating a concerted effort by a computer hacker or hackers.
In the primary, the campaign of Romero Roses, one of Garcia’s competitors, raised concerns about the odd absentee-ballot requests in the race.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said her office has targeted absentee voting, which she considers problematic.
“Historically, absentee voting is the source of all voter fraud,” she said in an interview, crediting The Miami Herald for its investigation.
The Florida 26th district seat was previously held by embattled former Republican David Rivera whom Congressman Garcia defeated this past year. The winner of the Democrat primary was going to likely with the election. Additionally, this was not the only campaign the chief of staff Jeffrey Garcia worked on last year. He helped Democrat Patrick Murphy unseat Republican Congressman Allen West in Florida’s 18th district. In competitive Congressional races every vote counts as Republican Congressman Allen West found out after losing to now Congressman Patrick Murphy by 1,904 votes or 0.58 percent.
In the future election fraud could be problematic in the Florida 26th district because it is a competitive district that leans Republican, which might make it a target for Democrats to attempt gain an unfair advantage, as it appears they did here. Additionally, the Washington Post in a December 2012 piece named Joe Garcia as the third most vulnerable member of Congress in 2014.