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.