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Miami-Dade commissioners to consider absentee-ballot protections, including paying for postage

In the wake of absentee-ballot fraud investigations that roiled last month’s local elections, Miami-Dade commissioners will take up three measures Thursday intended to tighten the rules for voting by mail.

Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, whose former aide has been tangled up in the fraud probe, is sponsoring a resolution directing the county administration to provide pre-paid postage envelopes for absentee voters to return their ballots.

Pre-paid postage has long been suggested as a fix to prevent campaigns and other outsiders from handling absentee ballots. Based on voter turnout in the last presidential election, the postage would cost no more than $170,000, according to the county. The practice would begin with absentee ballots mailed within the United States from Miami-Dade voters for the upcoming, Nov. 6 general election.

“At that point, you’ve now eliminated an excuse for somebody to knock on your door and offer you a stamp and offer to take [your ballot] to a mailbox,” said Bovo, whose measure is co-sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

City councils in Miami Lakes and Hialeah, which are in Bovo’s district, have recently passed similar measures requesting the county provide pre-paid postage return envelopes for absentee ballots.

The two other county proposals are mostly symbolic, urging state lawmakers to take action regarding absentee ballots when they convene for next year’s legislative session.

One of those resolutions, from Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and also backed by Bovo, asks lawmakers to keep secret the names and contact information of voters who request absentee ballots. That data is currently made available in the lead-up to elections to candidates and political committees — but not to reporters or other members of the public — to target their advertising to those voters.

Reporters and the public can obtain the information after the election.

The other resolution, put forth by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and supported by Martinez and Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Barbara Jordan, requests that lawmakers reinstate a previous requirement that voters give a reason, such as travel or an illness, for voting absentee. More here.