Miami-Dade County’s law aimed at curbing absentee-ballot fraud has withstood a first big legal challenge. An appeals court on Wednesday shot down the case of Hialeah’s Sergio “El Tio” Robaina, who claimed the county law was unconstitutional and unfair to elderly Hispanic voters who rely on friends to deliver their absentee ballots. The ruling is a resounding victory for Miami-Dade County, which in 2011 passed the ordinance amid fears of growing election fraud. Under the law, a person can only turn in two absentee ballots other than their own: one belonging to an immediate family member, and another belonging to a voter who has signed a sworn statement designating that person as responsible. The Third District Court of Appeal issued the ruling without a written opinion, which means that Robaina will likely be unable to appeal his case to the Florida Supreme Court.
Robaina, 76, pleaded no contest in 2012 to the county ordinance violations. He agreed to serve one year of probation.
“We’re very disappointed,” one of his lawyers, Tom Cobitz, said on Wednesday. “We’re considering our options for appeal because the ordinance seems to infringe on the fundamental right to vote.”
Robaina has long admitted to collecting the ballots, but merely as a way to help elderly citizens. The probe started after authorities discovered 164 absentee ballots dropped off at a North Miami-Dade post office.