In 1997, Florida police arrested 18 people in a widespread ballot fraud that tainted a citywide election. Those people were accused of acting as false witnesses to signing of absentee ballots doing the mayoral election, and two were accused of voter fraud. Many of those who were arrested worked in the campaign for Miami Mayor Xavier L. Suarez, who had initially defeated Joe Carollo in the election that was forced by hundreds of absentee ballots cast for Mr. Suarez in the first round in November. However, that following March, it was found that many absentee ballots were fraudulent.
A judge in Miami overturned the election, a new election was ordered, and Xavier Suarez was ousted. Mr. Suarez’s mayoral adversary in the election, Carollo stated the decision marked “a great day for Miami.” Carollo’s lawyer, Kendall Coffey, had told reporters at the time that there was “no basis for anyone other than Joe Carollo to be mayor.”
Mr. Coffey is no stranger to absentee voters and the scandals they can create. In 2000, he was involved in the Gore vs. Bush recount and lawsuit. Could an election similar to Carollo vs. Suarez or Bush vs. Gore occur again? And if so, what can be done to stop such occurrences?
Today, there is a one of a kind session happening at St. Thomas University School of Law, as both Kendall Coffey and Xavier Suarez are panelists for the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Their panel is titled “Absentee Ballot Fraud: What happened in the 1997 Miami mayoral election and what lessons have we learned since?”
It’ll be interesting to see how the panel goes with two men who have been on opposite sides of the issue, one having been indirectly connected with voter fraud and the other on the legal end of bringing those involved to justice. The conference will also be delving into the issues of Ponzi schemes and how to balance voter fraud with tighter restrictions on voter accesses. They will also have veteran legal and political minds discussing ethnic and racial issues that can sneak into campaigns.