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Ballot-fraud probe embroils commissioner's aide, former Hialeah mayor's uncle

 A ballot-fraud investigation that has already troubled two top Miami-Dade political campaigns has now embroiled the office of a county commissioner and could result in the arrest of the uncle of Hialeah’s former mayor, The Miami Herald has learned.

As part of the widening probe, police identified 164 absentee ballots collected at Commissioner Esteban Bovo’s Hialeah office, where an aide delivered them to a local post office, according to sources close to the investigation.

Bovo said he was shocked and knew nothing of the investigation, which has vexed the reelection campaigns of the county mayor and prosecutor.

Bovo’s aide is cooperating with law-enforcement authorities and, sources said, identified Sergio “ Tío” Robaina as one of the three brokers — known as boleteros in Spanish — who dropped off the ballots at the commissioner’s Hialeah district office, which was used as a central-collection point last month.

Robaina denied dropping off ballots at Bovo’s district office. He’s the uncle of former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who couldn’t be reached.

“I never left anything there. I didn’t leave a single ballot,” Robaina, 74, said. But he admitted that “sometimes” he does collect ballots and mails them. “I have always collected ballots of different people, even for Esteban Bovo.

“People call and ask for ballots. Then, you go and they put a seal on it and they send it,” Robaina said. “I’ve collected ballots because the person can’t. But mostly they send them. They have to be very old or something. And the ballots have to be sealed.”

Voter Barbara Pino, 52, who is deaf and mute and uses crutches to walk, cast one of the 164 ballots being examined by police. When asked by an El Nuevo Herald reporter who collected her ballot, she wrote on a notepad: “Sergio Robaina.”

Voter Maria Pena, 52, also said Robaina came by recently to recommend candidates, though she did not remember which. She said she dropped her own ballot in a mailbox near a J.C. Penney.

Deisy Cabrera, 56, is the only ballot broker charged so far. She was arrested on charges of forging a voter’s signature on a ballot and violating a county ordinance that prohibits third parties from possessing more than two absentee ballots of other voters.

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This is just another facet of the brilliant jewel we have here in the Banana Republic of Florida.

And Hialeah is probably the HQ for the Banana Republic Corporation ... although I'm not sure the foibles of the Banana Republicans in Hialeah outweigh the shenanigans in Broward county as regarding votes and elections.


In the second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence it states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is sad to say that this is just not true. These are beautiful and inspiring words in our declaration but only words. It gives us great comfort to think that we are all living in a country where equality for every man, woman and child is a reality but it is not. A great number of the men and women in our country did not have the same opportunities as others. They were brought up in broken homes and dysfunctional families. Their parents, or in many cases parent, were just not available to the degree that a growing child needed. Most were left without the proper guidance and left to fend for themselves. This has been a sad but very real growing trend in America. Circumstances like these often times lead to getting in trouble with the law and getting caught up into our justice and Correctional System. Do not let that title correctional fool you. There is nothing correctional about this system. It is simply a holding tank that has become very profitable for private correction corporations like the CCA who by the way are fighting several lawsuits filed against them in court as we speak. Our correctional system is broken and does very little to correct these men, women and adolescent offenders. The average rate of recidivism in the country is over 30%. The recidivism rate, according to Florida’s own DOC figures in May 10, 2010, was 51.8%. These men and women are being recycled again and again back through the system because of lack of opportunity. Is this justice? Just put them away and throw away the key many are saying. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but this is simply not morally just and is not working. The number of the disenfranchised continues to grow astronomically. Florida has some of the harshest disenfranchisement policies in the country and is home to nearly one fifth of the 5.5 million disenfranchised men and women that no longer have the right of an American citizen. They pay their taxes but are just not allowed to participate in government. Kind of reminds me of the Boston Tea Party, “Taxation without representation.” This is in part why the U.S. leads the rest of the world in prison population. In 2007 the U.S. had less than 5% of the world’s population and 23.4% of the world’s prison and jail population according to the New York Times. This is 743 per 100,000 people. As of 2011 we currently had approximately 2.3 million people behind bars according to the International Center for Prison Studies. In comparison China has four times our population and is a distant second with 1.6 million people in prison. In 2011 our country spent $74 billion on growing and maintaining our correctional system and we keep throwing more money into a system that is broken and not producing the results that we need. A smaller prison population results in a larger number of productive American citizens that will make us a stronger nation. There is a better way to achieve this. It has been documented more than once that when an ex-felon has been restored as a full citizen that the recidivism is cut nearly in half. We can put more of a focus on funding reeducation, rehabilitation and reintegration programs that will produce a lower prison population in the short term. Currently the money we spend on these programs are just a drop in the bucket compared to the $74 billion. We have become a country addicted to incarceration. We use a prison sentence as a fix all solution and it is not getting the job done. Anyone can see this. Helping others get a new lease on life is the right thing to do. Every human being deserves a second chance at living free as a contributing member of society. The human spirit was not created to live in bondage. Now is the time to call or write your congressman and tell them that you are sick and tired of seeing your money being wasted on a system that is failing. It is time for some bold and new decisions to be made so we can turn the corner on a runaway prison population and disenfranchised community in this country. We can do this. Are we not as our National Anthem describes us as “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?

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