At Little Haiti’s St. Mary Towers, ballot brokers jockey every election season to see who can get in the doors and collect the most absentee ballots, the elderly residents say.
Brokers tout their skills on Creole-language radio, pitch their services to candidates running for office in cities that boast a sizeable Haitian electorate and even brag about their vote-getting prowess on business cards emblazoned with slogans like “Queen of the absentee ballots.”
So-called boleteros have long been a part of the political firmament in largely Hispanic enclaves in Miami-Dade.
But they are part of a burgeoning cottage industry in the Haitian community — a testament to the increasing power of the Haitian-American vote, as well as a cause for concern for those who worry about potential abuses, especially in the wake of the recent arrests of two ballot brokers in Hialeah.
“In areas where people have less sophistication about the process, the idea of someone helping is more appealing,” said Joseph Centorino, director of Miami-Dade’s Ethics Commission. “This kind of thing tends to happen where there are vulnerable people, people who can be taken advantage of by a political campaign.”
The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office has set up a task force to investigate all allegations of possible vote fraud.
At least one senior citizen at St. Mary Towers, a beige corner apartment complex for the elderly, says he is unsure whom he voted for in last month’s election after he let brokers fill out his absentee ballot.
Joseph Jean-Baptiste said three men filled out and mailed his absentee ballot. The men who knocked on his apartment door in Little Haiti spoke Creole. They said they were Democrats and seemed friendly. But Jean-Baptiste can’t say whom he voted for with certainty because he didn’t review the ballot for the Aug. 14 primary except to sign it.
“The government needs to look into this because I had faith in these people and now I don’t know. I keep thinking about it. Did they steal my vote?” said Jean-Baptiste, 84.
More from Nadege Green here.