“Ex-Florida state senator paid bogus candidate to ‘siphon votes,’ police say, in race GOP narrowly won”

WaPo:

When incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez lost his Florida state senate seat to Republican challenger Ileana Garcia by just 32 votes in November, the losing party and investigators began asking questions about a suspicious third candidate.

A man named Alexis “Alex” Rodriguez — who shared the incumbent’s last name — appeared on the ballotbut never campaigned, never spoke publicly, and could not be reached by reporters after he took thousands of votes on Election Day.

Now, the mysterious candidate and a former Republicanstate senator are facing felony charges for crimes stemming from a plot to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent,” police said in an affidavit filed this week.

“It violates everything that should be honest and straightforward about our elections,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (D) said on Thursday, noting that investigators are still probing the case as well as two other suspicious candidates in other state races. “Where it goes from here, we don’t know. We have not completed this investigation.”

The case is a rare instance when a criminal scheme may have changed an election outcome, helping the GOP flip a state senate seat. The investigation comes as Republicans in Florida have justified attempts to restrict mail-in voting, which would hamper Democrats, by suggesting tighter rules will make elections more secure — even though there is scant evidence of voter fraud in mail-in ballots.

Miami Herald:

Florida Democrats on Friday called for Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia’s resignation and for a special election to be held in Miami-Dade Senate District 37, a day after state prosecutors accused a Miami GOP operative of planting a no-party candidate to sway the outcome of the racein November.

Garcia’s 2020 victory strengthened Senate Republicans’ decades-long control of the Florida Senate. But Democrats are calling into question the integrity of the election after a 25-page arrest affidavit laid bare an alleged scheme by former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles that involved him paying an auto-parts dealer more than $40,000 to run and influence the race.

The sham candidate, Alexis “Alex” Rodriguez, shared the same surname as the incumbent, Democrat José Javier Rodríguez. The point of his candidacy, investigators said, was to “confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.” Garcia won by 32 votes out of 215,000 ballots cast. Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,000 votes….

Investigators have not found evidence that Garcia knew of Artiles’ alleged scheme to influence the outcome of her race. Garcia told the Herald that she has never even met Artiles.

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