The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is looking into allegations that North Miami voters were receiving help in completing ballots in voting booths from election officials and other government employees.
The findings were first reported by The Miami Herald.
Florida law allows voters to request assistance in the voting booth if proper procedures are followed. The procedure requires voting assistants to complete a form swearing that the voter sought their help. The voters, if they have never previously asked for assistance, must fill out a separate form swearing that they requested it.
However, the concern in North Miami is with the number of people seeking assistance and those who are helping the voters. In addition, records indicate city employees or campaign workers helped more than two-thirds of the assisted voters.
The Herald reported more than one in 10 voters received assistance at the polls from non-poll workers in the city’s May 2021 election under a Florida provision designed to help people with disabilities or those who can’t read or write, according to records. During early voting, the number was closer to four in 10 — far higher than in any other election in Miami-Dade County last year.
North Miami officials say the high number of voters seeking assistance is related to the language barrier in a community with Creole-speaking Haitian immigrants who have difficulty with reading and writing in English and Creole.
“If you want to go to vote and you don’t know how to vote, you have someone to help you out,” Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime said. “I don’t see the problem.”
However, political operatives are concerned that campaigns in North Miami are more interested in wielding influence inside the polls rather than improving accessibility for voters.
Data provided by election officials indicate that North Miami is an outlier when it comes to assisting voters. Across city elections last November in Miami, Hialeah, and Miami Beach, less than 1% of voters received assistance. However, in North Miami last May, that number was 10.7%.
These voting issues come amid a debate over a proposal by Governor DeSantis to increase election security.
The proposal made it through its first committee this week and includes a 15-person group of investigators to examine possible voting crimes.
In addition, the bill requires voters to include the last four digits of their social security number or voter ID number on their vote-by-mail ballots, requires more frequent purges of voter registration lists, and increases penalties for what’s known as ballot harvesting–collecting and turning in ballots on behalf of other voters.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Election Day 2020” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.