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Miami-Dade elections chief defends department in wake of poll worker's arrest

Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley said she does not believe last week’s revelation that a Hialeah man accused of ballot fraud has been a poll worker in recent years is indicative of a pervasive problem in her department.

The case involving poll worker Sergio Robaina, arrested on Aug. 10 on ballot-tampering charges, is the first of its kind anyone in her department can remember, she added.

“I wouldn’t want the public or voters to feel that we have somehow been infiltrated with these people that have ulterior motives because, for the most part, our poll workers are very committed and dedicated individuals who are doing what they do because of pride and wanting to do their civic duty,” Townsley said.

On Friday, El Nuevo Herald learned that Robaina, 74, has been a poll worker in Hialeah for the past four years. Dozens of voters say that for years Robaina has collected their ballots, as he did in the weeks prior to the Aug. 14 elections.

Robaina is one of about 13,000 individuals who are properly trained to work the polls in Miami-Dade County. Before each election, these workers take oaths that they will prevent fraud and affirm that they haven’t been paid to support a candidate or issue that’s on the ballot.

Townsley couldn’t recall another case in the department’s history where a poll worker was found in violation of the oath, which would be a misdemeanor.

The only other requirements for poll workers is to be a U.S. citizen and literate, Townsley said.

More from Melissa Sanchez and Enrique Flor here.