Law enforcement officers investigating absentee ballot fraud raided the home early Thursday of Juan Pablo Baggini, the operations director for Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez’s mayoral campaign.
Suarez justed posted on Facebook that it was a misunderstanding:
"I was informed this morning that law enforcement officials went to the home of a worker from my ECO regarding approximately 20 absentee ballot request forms that were transmitted to the division of elections by electronic means. It should be emphasized that each and every one of the requests were voluntarily and duly signed by a registered voter. I have instructed my campaign to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials regarding this matter and I have all confidence that once the investigation is concluded the facts will reflect that no willful violations of the law occurred."
That might be true, that it wasn't a "willful" violation. But it's still a violation. Florida law says you can't request the absentee ballot of a non-immediate family member.
"The law is clear: You can't do it," said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee-based state election-law lawyer who has represented hundreds of political clients across the political spectrum.
Detectives searched Baggini’s Southwest Miami-Dade residence after the Miami-Dade Elections Department reported a series of online applications for 20 absentee ballots submitted last month. The requests were flagged as suspicious because they were generated from the same computer. The absentee ballots were not mailed out to the voters.
Investigators traced the computer’s internet protocol address to Baggini’s home.
Suarez, who has been on the dais for a Miami City Commission meeting Thursday, told the Miami Herald that he was notified about the raid early in the morning, and is confident that his campaign will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“We’re cooperating fully with any investigation that any agency wants to do into our campaign,’’ said Suarez, who is challenging Mayor Tomas Regalado in the November election. “We feel confident that once they investigate the circumstances fully, it will be apparent nothing was done to purposely violate the law. They will conclude that everything was done legally.’’
Suarez, whose campaign has been courting young professionals, said he hired Baggini to handle social media and media relations activities.
The campaign had held several events targeting younger voters, and has helped them sign up for absentee ballots.