Saturday, July 29, 2017
Palm Beach County State's Attorney Dave Aronberg ignored problems with absentee voting -- "Victory for bad government" | Sun Sentinel Editorial
Disappointed in my friend Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State's Attorney. Not only did he fail to pursue possible bribery charge over State Attorney General PAMELA JO BONDI's acceptance of low-cost use of DONALD TRUMP's Mar-a-Lago (and possible quid pro quo on dropping charges against TRUMP UNIVERSITY). He refused to take election fraud charges to Palm Beach County Grand Jury. Dave Aronberg, you're better than that. Enforce the law without fear or favor.
Dave Aronberg ignored problems with absentee voting | Editorial
A database analyst from Coral Springs crunched the voter registration rolls and found that dozens of people across the state voted twice. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher has submitted 14 names to 15th Judicial Circuit State Attorney
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg could have taken a first step toward needed election reform in Florida. Instead, he took a pass.
Reform is a hot topic. President Trump created a commission on election integrity. A conservative group has sued Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, alleging that she has failed to remove ineligible voters from the rolls.
Trump’s commission, however, is more about prolonging his bogus claim to have won the popular vote. The lawsuit by the American Civil Rights Union sounds like the embarrassing attempts of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to purge the rolls of supposedly illegal voters.
Aronberg, however, had a case involving the main threat to election integrity in Florida — absentee ballots. But despite tough talk, the state attorney refused to follow up on the evidence, likely for partisan reasons.
The case began last summer when Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher informed investigators about possible absentee ballot fraud. Bucher’s office supplied names of voters who believed that requests for absentee ballots had been submitted without their knowledge.
Bucher also identified Delano Allen as someone who had submitted “large quantities” of absentee ballot request forms. There was much to go on. According to the investigators’ report, Aronberg met with them on Aug. 23 and “stressed the importance of this investigation in terms of protecting this county’s voting process.”
But little happened. Then last March, The Palm Beach Post reported that Florida House candidate Al Jacquet and Palm Beach County Commission candidate Mack Bernard had helped voters fill out absentee ballots in their homes, in some cases cajoling and pressuring voters for signatures. Jacquet and Bernard won their seats because of huge margins from absentee voters.
Jacquet and Bernard focused on fellow Haitian-Americans. Because of gaps in Florida’s election laws, they broke no rules just by helping those voters. It is illegal in most cases, however, for anyone but the voter to fill out a ballot and to request an absentee ballot.
University of Florida professor and election expert Daniel Smith reviewed the paper’s findings and called the campaigns’ actions “highly suspect." The information, Smith added, “raises questions about what those voters were thinking in marking their ballots. Or whether those voters marked their ballots at all."
Combined with Bucher’s information, Aronberg had enough to empanel a grand jury that would recommend absentee ballot reforms. He might have found criminal violations. The investigators found nearly two dozen examples of forged absentee ballot request forms.
As The Post reported last Sunday, however, investigators somehow were unable to identify a suspect, and Aronberg didn’t press them to continue. Much of the work began only after The Post story — and thus months after the August election. Investigators never interviewed Delano Allen. The investigators claimed they couldn’t reach Allen in person.
In fact, Allen is easy to find. He’s a legislative assistant to state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, whose office is on Australian Avenue. Another absentee ballot complaint came from Michael Steinger, who lost to Powell in last year’s Democratic primary. Powell referred last week to coverage of the investigation as “criminal.”
What happened to Aronberg’s concern for “this county’s voting process?” As state attorney, Aronberg is Palm Beach County’s top local Democrat. Jacquet, Bernard and Powell are all Democrats. Aronberg, a former state senator and unsuccessful candidate for attorney general, long has been rumored to be seeking something higher. The party previously had approached him about running for Congress. The Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast seat held by Republican Brian Mast is considered a swing district. Aronberg has gotten good notices for his work running the county’s sober homes task force.
Aronberg wouldn’t comment on why he let the investigation lapse, but his decision is a victory for bad government. Absentee ballots have been a problem for two decades, beginning with fraud that overturned a Miami mayoral election. The Miami Herald has reported on absentee ballot brokers who work certain neighborhoods. In 2000, Republican elections supervisors in Martin and Seminole counties wrongly allowed GOP operatives to fill out absentee ballot requests.
Ideally, Florida would return to a system in which absentee ballots went only to people who can’t get to the polls. Both parties, however, now rely heavily on what the state calls mail-in ballots. If that doesn’t change, the Legislature at least should set rules to prevent candidates and their volunteers from helping voters fill out — and requesting large numbers of — absentee ballots. Aronberg could have led that effort, but he chose party over principle.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O'Hara, Andrew Abramson, Elana Simms, Gary Stein and Editor-in-Chief Howard Saltz.