Sunday, August 05, 2012

Absentee ballot fraud in Miami: Sedanos Supermarket ... by gimleteye

It doesn't matter whether the election is the president of the United States or a local Miami legislator: Florida proves that elections can be extraordinarily close and, even, stolen. Miami politicians, moreover, long ago discovered the power of absentee ballots. Entrepreneurial campaign consultants -- sometimes paid by the ballot -- can make the difference in a close election. Abuse of election law in Miami has been rampant and absentee ballots, in particular, can constitute a fertile and profitable way to a winning outcome.

An interesting detail emerges from the Miami Herald story, "Cabrera was a fixture of Hialeah politics", for law enforcement to follow up and for readers to observe: the use of Sedanos Supermarket for illegal election activities by absentee ballot collectors, or boleteras, to recruit voters and collect ballots on behalf of political candidates. Sedanos is the largest Hispanic-owned supermarket chain in the United States.

The question law enforcement should ask: are organized illegal activities related to ballot collection occurring at Sedanos with the approval of store management and owners? Eye On Miami, the blog, broke the story about rampant absentee ballot fraud.

Armando Guerra, the owner of Sedanos, has frequent business before the county commission with requests to build new supermarkets on land that requires re-zoning. He is a large land owner outside the Urban Development Boundary. A primary purpose of land speculators, for example either Guerra himself or lobbyists he hires, is besieging the county commission is to obtain zoning approvals for land use changes; especially votes to move the Urban Development Boundary.

Supermarket chains, big box retailers, production housing developers and the entire supply chain of suburban sprawl depend on the outcome. Guerra is also a director of the notorious US Century Bank, whose board of directors -- mainly land speculators -- have used the bank as if it were there personal ATM. US Century Bank continues to push for new bank branches in the far reaches of West and South Dade to accommodate the "inevitable" development of the last wetlands and farmland edging the Everglades.

There is further irony to Sedanos' location for the "small time fixture at the murky edges of Hialeah politics". In 2006, organizers of the campaign to recall discredited, former county commissioner Natacha Seijas used a Publix supermarket location in Miami Lakes, adjacent to Hialeah, to collect recall petitions. Seijas had been the de facto chair of the county commission for nearly two decades, representing the interests of powerful Cuban American developers like US Century Bank's Sergio Pino, Ramon Rasco, and Armando Guerra.

One day Seijas showed up at the supermarket, according to first-hand accounts, and furiously berated both the petition collectors and the local Publix manager. In March 2006, "... petition circulators outside of the Miami Lakes Publix supermarket were accosted by Seijas in a rage. “She started shaking her finger at me like a schoolteacher," said Elisa Toruño, who lives in South Miami-Dade. She and other volunteers were collecting signatures outside the Publix on Miami Lakes Drive when Seijas approached them. ... Toruño said Seijas then marched into the Publix and complained to managers, who came out and asked the women to leave.” (At the time, the petition gatherers were within their rights to use the parking lot outside supermarket to collect signatures.) The harassment of petition gatherers did not stop there. After Seijas became aware of their presence, store managers at Publix, Sedanos and Wal-Mart began calling the police to stop the petition circulators, particularly the Hispanic ones the campaign was able to hire."

The 2006 harassment of petition gatherers at supermarkets in Miami-Dade contrasts sharply with a Miami Herald report that at least one balotera was working inside the supermarket to collect absentee ballots illegally.

In 2006 the GOP led legislature was in a fever to stop a direct petition drive, Florida Hometown Democracy. The citizen movement intended to put before state wide voters an amendment to the Florida constitution in order to return direct control to local voters for the kinds of land use changes that caused suburban sprawl to spread across the state like kudzu. It was vociferously opposed by the Latin Builders Association, Associated Industries of Florida, the Chamber of Commerce, and other pro-development, mainly GOP groups.

Volunteers collecting signatures in the petition initiative used supermarket parking lots and entrances in Miami-Dade and throughout the state. The Seijas recall provided all the ammunition that was needed by Florida legislatures to pass a new law, erecting a new hurdle to civic engagement. In 2007 the Florida legislature passed SB 1920, making it illegal in Florida to gather signatures outside "private" locations like supermarkets.

But conducting absentee ballot fraud from inside supermarkets like Sedanos is -- in at least one case -- an accepted practice in Hialeah. From the Herald: "Perez said ballot brokers frequently work the Sedano’s, asking shoppers if they are U.S. citizens and whether they have received a ballot in the mail. Perez said she gave Cabrera her home address, and about two days later Cabrera came by and picked up the ballot. Perez insisted she filled out the ballot herself." One is lead to wonder by such a statement if illegal activity collecting ballots inside supermarkets is sanctioned by store managers who are otherwise prohibited (now, by state law and not just a furious county commissioner) from allowing petition gatherers for citizen initiatives outside their stores.

Imagine being able to steal elections from inside supermarket and suppress the ability of citizens to collect petitions outside. Those sprawl boosters and supermarket chain owners and big box retailers have so degraded the public realm that the only place where citizens reliably gather are parking lots. Eye On Miami will respect the confidentiality of any sources willing to come forward to provide more detail on this matter.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not surprised by anything that happens in Hialeah

Anonymous said...

Now I understand why I always see Gimenez shopping at Sedanos. Thanks for making the connection.

Anonymous said...

Who knows? Perhaps Helen B. Williams would have won in 2008 if "boleteras" didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Sedanos is a popular market in the Hispanic communities. I just hope they are not involved in this corrupt voter fraud.

However, I have notice some of the people running for reelection are purchasisng gift certificates from Sedanos. I can not understand and its the first time I have ever seen this that gift certificates are being used this way. Who gets them and how are they being used.
Mr. Pedro Garcia head of the Tax Assessors Office has received numerous donations or purchased gift certificates from the HIaleah Sedanos. Seems unusual to me.

Anonymous said...

"Eye On Miami will respect the confidentiality of any sources willing to come forward to provide more detail on this matter."

That is the same tactic the Nazis used. Enticing people to tell on their neighbors. For shame!

Anonymous said...

That is about the stupidest comment I ever heard, anonymous.

Geniusofdespair said...

I will second that and add a putz label for him. You can see why I have little respect for some of our knucklehead readers.

Anonymous said...

Sedanos will answer these questions and make their managers available to the press at the same time Romney releases his tax returns.

Anonymous said...

It takes away from the legitimate issues you take on in this blog - the environment, political corruption - to make groundless connections like this. If you have facts, publish them. Otherwise, stay quiet. This is the type of garbage that ends up taking away this blog's credibility on adult topics like global warming or political corruption.

Gimleteye said...

What is not legitimate? Voter suppression and suppression of citizen petition drives is not a fact? Or Sedanos, and the possible role of managers allowing ballot collectors to work the aisles?

Anonymous said...

Um, just to be clear, petitioners can collect signatures on private property WITH THE OWNER'S PERMISSION; otherwise they are trespassing and blocking pedestrian traffic into the store, and can be asked to leave (or be arrested if they don't leave). Free speech and political activity don't allow someone to trespass, just like I cannot enter your front yard to protest the Christian Family Coalition without YOUR permission. And state law does not require a property owner to provide "equal time" for competing political causes or for candidates the property owner doesn't support.

Anonymous said...

The Sedanos Conspiracy doesn't fly. The family members that leads this corporation are incredibly gracious people who actively support a number of notable community organizations and causes, including 'green' causes. It is a wrong to link this reputable family to the shenanigans of Gimenez supporters who happen to purchase groceries and kibbitz in the aisles of a Sedanos. Move on.

Anonymous said...

I grew up hearing the story of my great-uncle. He began with a very humble store that served his neighbors. His goods were excellent and his prices fair, so in time his store became the largest and best. Along with more clients came the envy of those who hated his "race". Friends and neighbors congregated in his store to trade news as well as to shop. Soon, the rumor began that they were anti-government. That they were planning illegal activities. Without an ounce of truth, the rumors grew. One day, the government asked that if anyone knew of illegal acts being planned in the store, they should step up, their identities would be protected. The haters and those filled with envy rushed to tell. A few days later, my great-uncle's shop, along with those of all the Jews in the neighborhood was destroyed. The windows were shattered. Fortunately, my great-uncle died of a heart attack and didn't live to see what horrors were to come.
This may be the stupidest comment you've ever heard. Tragically, it is true.

And by the way, "putz" is a Yiddish word. It means penis.

Geniusofdespair said...

You are still a putz. We know our Yiddish.

This guy is no more just a grocery store owner then Norman Braman is just a car dealer. You would have us be haters of the race or ethnicity of someone because we criticicize or write about them? Your comments are offensive as is your Nazi linking..that is plainly wrong we never said what you are inferring it is only in your mind.

Geniusofdespair said...

Eye on Miami uncovered a case of 3 stolen ballots in North Miami from a readers tip. We need tips for our blog posts so keep them coming readers.

Anonymous said...

Lots of AB fraud going on in the so called clinicas... For shame

Anonymous said...

yes

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened in the city of Doral. Residents reported being pressured for AB signatures outside of Sedanos.

They were pressured to vote for the candidate who was elected Mayor of Doral on 11/28/12 by AB votes. Reports of being offered cash in return for votes were also made.