The cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach will have city municipality election Nov. 5 where voters will choose city commissioners, city council members and a mayor. A new system of checks in the Manatee County Office of Elections will be used to guard against absentee ballot fraud. The new system, which involves some software and coding for the ballots, has evolved over the last few months after a scandal involving phantom absentee ballots in Miami-Dade, said Michael Bennett, supervisor of Manatee’s Office of Elections. Bennett traveled to Orlando last week to meet with other Florida election office supervisors who were addressed by Miami-Dade officials. “Miami-Dade officials went over what exactly had happened to them and how they caught it,” Bennett said. “They walked us through it so we would all be on the same page going forward.” In Miami-Dade, hackers submitted thousands of phony ballot requests online at the Miami-Dade Elections Department, according to a Miami Herald investigation. More than 2,500 such requests were flagged by the Miami-Dade Elections Department after they were found to have originated from only a handful of Internet Protocol addresses.
An investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office traced some phony IP addresses to Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami. Garcia fired his former chief of staff after he admitted to coordinating the submission of nearly 500 fraudulent ballot requests.
In a separate investigation in June, prosecutors searched the home of a campaign aide to Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez for submitting 20 ballot requests for voters.
State law requires voters or their family members to submit ballot requests themselves. Suarez is running for city mayor