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By Phillip Stucky

Local politicians running in Palm Beach County won their races by going door to door and pressuring residents to let them fill out their ballots, according to a Tuesday report from the Palm Beach Post.

Democratic Commissioner Mack Bernard and Rep. Al Jacquet allegedly used some questionable tactics during their primary last August. One local resident reported that one of the men “talked his way into her home and dug out her ballot from a stack of discarded mail,” according to the report.

“To argue that my hard-fought victory was achieved by anything other than the sweat on my brow and the lost sole on my shoes is offensive,” Bernard said in reference to the accusations.

The Post does assert that up to 300 absentee ballots were requested without the knowledge of the resident whose name was on the ballot. County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher asserted her office flagged each of those as potentially fraudulent but were forced to send the ballots anyway under current law.

The Post also established that election office workers sent information about when ballots were sent, and to what address they were sent to the candidates. That action was banned by a 2012 grand jury decision in Miami-Dade.

Once those ballots were filled in by the candidates themselves, they took the ballots with them, and delivered them to the election office by hand.

“The voter is responsible for filling out their own ballot in the privacy of their own home, sealing their ballot, and the ballots are only allowed to be collected by volunteers,” consultant with both candidates Rick Asnani said about the matter. “You’re not allowed to sit there and touch their ballots until it is signed, dated and handed to you.”

“I would not want to be involved with any candidate or any volunteers that would do those kinds of things.”

Jacquet lost by 132 votes, but earned over 1,100 more absentee votes than his opponent. Both Jacquet and Bernard earned over 50 percent in absentee votes, a glaring anomaly for other races in Florida, Absentee ballots normally only make up 30 percent of the votes in any given race.

“That is highly suspect,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor who specializes in voting and elections results. “When you have isolated precincts where a certain candidate overperformed, it raises questions about what those voters were thinking in marking their ballots. Or whether those voters marked their ballots at all.”

A separate report claimed that a voter registration canvasser attempted to register several non-citizens during the 2016 election in Miami-Dade County.

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