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Miami-Dade grand jury: Florida should reinstate absentee voting witness requirement

Florida should reinstate a requirement that someone witness an absentee voter’s ballot signature, and Miami-Dade County should work closely with assisted-living facilities in order to prevent voter fraud, according to a report issued this week by a Miami-Dade grand jury.

The grand jury, convened to examine problems with absentee-ballot voting, made 23 recommendations — 10 to Florida lawmakers, 13 to the county elections department — designed to tighten regulations for voting by mail and make it easier for law enforcement to punish violators.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle asked the 21-member grand jury to take on absentee voting following the August primary election, in which two Hialeah ballot brokers known asboleteros were arrested and charged with voter fraud and with violating a county ordinance that prohibits the possession of multiple absentee ballots.

“The headlines of the breaking news coverage revealed gaping holes in the absentee ballot voting process in our community,” says the report, released Wednesday. “As we discovered, each of those holes represented an opportunity for someone to commit fraud — undetected and in the shadows.”

Among the grand jury’s recommendations to the state:

• Reinstate a state requirement that a witness 18 years old or older witness an absentee voter fill out his or her ballot and sign it.

• Require that people who provide absentee voters with assistance fill out declarations similar to the ones required from people who help voters at the polls.

• Make it a third-degree felony for anyone to possess more than two absentee ballots, other than those belonging to the voter and an immediate family member.

• Exempt information on voters who have requested absentee ballots from political parties, candidates and political committees.