Members of a group advising Miami-Dade on how to improve its elections want the county to try get ahead of the curve of fraudsters who have attempted to manipulate the system by submitting phantom absentee-ballot requests online. “Folks are always going to try to figure out weaknesses in the system in order to sway it to their advantage,” County Commissioner Dennis Moss, one of the group’s members, said at a meeting Wednesday. The elections department, he said, should work proactively to foresee where would-be computer hackers might try to attack next. They have already attempted one scheme: submitting thousands of phony ballot requests online for unsuspecting voters. More than 2,500 such requests were flagged by the department last summer because they originated from only a handful of Internet Protocol addresses.
An investigation by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office prompted by a Miami Herald article that revealed that some of those IP addresses could be traced locally has engulfed the campaign of Congressman Joe Garcia. The Miami Democrat fired his former chief of staff after the chief admitted to Garcia that he coordinated the submission of nearly 500 fraudulent ballot requests.
In a separate investigation last month, prosecutors searched the home of a campaign aide to Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, who is running for city mayor, for submitting 20 ballot requests for voters. State law requires voters or their family members to submit requests themselves.
In December, a grand jury convened by State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to examine problems with voting by mail recommended bolstering online security.