By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — With the absentee ballot fraud scandal heating up in Miami, the Miami-Dade County mayor has denied that his campaign is related to the two women found with more a dozen ballots in the city of Hialeah, but admits that voter fraud has been a longstanding problem in the state’s most populous county.
“For me the question is not what they were doing with absentee ballots in hand, but rather who gave them the ballots and how they had access to them,” said Giménez, seeking re-election against Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez.
“We need to investigate this further to prevent it from happening again,” Giménez added.
An ordinance adopted by the Miami-Dade County Commission last year makes it a crime for any person to possess more than two absentee ballots that aren’t their own.
At the center of the scandal are Daisy Martinez Cabrera and Matilde Martínez, two women allegedly found with 19 absentee ballots in their possession when Miami detectives confronted them July 25. The ballots reportedly were collected from affordable housing units and were all marked in support of Giménez.
Florida Watchdog asked the mayor about the issue that has now brewed to become a scandal, less than 12 days before the election.
“It’s very interesting how all this came to light. If these people have committed crimes, they must pay,” Giménez said. “And we have to stop this type of activity in the county. There are many people who are supposedly doing what these ladies were doing.
“But we must also find out who opened the door to them having access to those ballots. That interests me specifically because that is a felony.”
The mayor stressed that his political adviser, Al Lorenzo, is in no way related to the women who have sparked a growing voter fraud scandal in South Florida.
“At my request, he signed a document stating that he did not hire these two women. They were not working for my campaign,” Giménez told Florida Watchdog.
Martínez, Giménez’s opponent in the mayor election and current president of the county board, told Florida Watchdog that Giménez is absolutely tied to the ballot scandal.
“Not that he knew exactly what was going on, but the ladies were seen going into the same residential centers several times. Witnesses have claimed to see them depositing ballots in the mail, as well,” he said.
“The law says you cannot have more than two ballots in your possession, and now they want to delay prosecution until after the elections? Chapter 119 says that if you accept the absentee ballot of another person it is considered fraud.”
He said the law should be changed so that campaigns do not have access to the list of voters receiving absentee ballots.
Martínez denied his own campaign’s involvement in the scandal, specifically any action to Sasha Tirador, his campaign manager, dubbed the “queen of the absentee ballot” in previous electoral campaigns for her persistence in pursuing absentee voters.
Insinuations that Tirador set up the women in order to take down Giménez are baseless, he said.
“These people who are involved with Mr. Giménez have committed a crime. Sasha has never been involved. She has been accused, but I investigated it myself and I found absolutely nothing.”
Spanish-language interviews with Carlos Giménez and Joe Martínez: