A second aide to Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., resigned last week as part of a continuing voter fraud investigation that continues to plague the freshman Congressman’s office.
As previously reported, 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.
Congressman Garcia tried to initially explain the “situation” by saying:
“I think it was a well-intentioned attempt to maximize voter turnout”… “I explain it with the reckless abandon that we play politics in South Florida,” he said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”
The only intention by Congressman Garcia and his campaign was to win the primary by any means necessary even if it meant stealing an election.
The aide who resigned was Congressman Garcia’s communications director, Giancarlo Sopo, who submitted his resignation only weeks after Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation to the congressman) resigned at the end of May.
“Giancarlo informed me on Friday that he was resigning,” Rep. Garcia said in a written statement to CQ Roll Call. ”I thanked him for his service to our office. I understand that he is cooperating with investigators and hope that this will give him an opportunity to resolve this matter.”
The Miami Herald reported earlier that Sopo had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last month, only days after Miami-Dade prosecutors and police raided his cousin’s home in connection with the scheme to request ballots online for nearly 500 unsuspecting voters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. Garcia said at the time that he did not immediately fire Sopo because he told Garcia he wasn’t involved in the plot.
In the plot Sopo recruited his friends or family to assist, Sopo’s Attorney Gus Lage presumably either to compile or submit the ballot requests.
In a separate absentee-ballot case, investigators on June 13 raided the home of a Juan Pablo Baggini, a political worker for the mayoral campaign of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, for submitting 20 absentee-ballot requests from his computer. Sopo also volunteered in Suarez’s campaign in January.
Despite winning by a comfortable margin, Congressman Garcia remains one of the most vulnerable House Democrats of the 2014 cycle. House Republicans have made Florida’s 26th District a top priority, and the local GOP started talking up potential Garcia challengers as early as January.
Still, many top Democrats are sticking by the congressman, as evidenced by Democratic strategist James Carville sending out a fundraising email on his behalf.
As this voter fraud scandal continues to unravel it will likely show the true depth of corruption involved and how for some campaigns they are willing to do anything necessary to win, even break the law. This is why elections need to be carefully watched so that we can ensure the winner is really the winner.