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Miami-Dade judicial candidates say they spurned absentee-ballot brokers

Before launching her campaign for Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge, María Elena Verde got a clear recommendation from her political adviser: Keep boleteros — absentee-ballot brokers — at a distance.

“She gave me a list of names and told me not to talk to any of those people,” said Verde, who won her Aug. 14 race against Richard Coppel.

Despite the warning, Verde found herself appalled by the number of boleteros who approached her. During a visit to a Miami community center for the elderly, for instance, a woman asked her whether she had hired someone to collect absentee ballots on her behalf.

“I don’t know what you mean by that,” Verde said she responded.

Without mentioning a fee, the woman pointed to community center’s kitchen and said: “This morning I was sitting in that kitchen filling out absentee ballots. I can put your name on the ballots.”

Several judicial candidates who ran in the Aug. 14 election recalled in dismay and disgust how boleterostook advantage of campaign events to offer their services. The ballot brokers behaved like vendors at a flea market, some candidates said, sometimes seemingly haggling among themselves on a deal.

Appalled by the assault, some candidates said they pretended not to know what was going on and even invented distractions, like cutting a cake, to get away from them.

More from Melissa Sanchez and Enrique Flor here.