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Florida 2020 election was the gold standard, election officials say

Audits find no evidence of widespread fraud; only fraud was elaborate scheme
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Posted at 8:40 AM, Oct 20, 2021

MIAMI, Fla. — With the increase in mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida officials were concerned about the potential of voting fraud heading into the 2020 election.

But the ABC Action News I-Team uncovered it was a different kind of fraud that resulted in criminal charges.

As election day approached last year, some states implemented widespread voting by mail procedures for the first time, leading to confusion in some places.

“Pennsylvania was changing the rules in the middle of the game and that’s where you have some concern,” said Christian Ziegler, Vice Chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

No excuse voting by mail had been the norm for years in Florida, which invested millions on training and security measures ahead of the 2020 Presidential election.

“We have the highest registration ever, we have the most mail ballots ever requested and cast thus far,” Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus said in early November last year.

Those safeguards appeared to work.

Florida was the gold standard

While some groups alleged there were irregularities based on conspiracy theories, audits of votes by each Florida county’s Supervisor of Elections office found no evidence of fraud.

Governor DeSantis tweeted, “Florida is a model for the rest of the nation to follow.”

“Every single division of elections executive around this state felt that this was the cleanest and the most efficient election that they have ever seen in this state. And I believe that to be true,” said ABC Action News political analyst Jeff Swartz.

“Florida was the gold standard in the 2020 election, to be honest,” Ziegler said.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t other problems, even if they didn’t immediately surface.

A racial slur, swimsuit models and a shill candidate

“The only issues that we saw in the 2020 elections were Republicans cheating by putting forth straw candidates and funding them,” said Florida Democratic Party Spokesperson Jose Dante Parra.

Former Florida State Senator Frank Artiles of Miami, who is now a registered lobbyist, is at the center of a controversy involving alleged election violations which led to his arrest.

Artiles was forced to resign from the Florida Senate in 2017 after using a racial slur in the presence of his senate colleagues and hiring swimsuit models as paid political consultants.

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Artiles resigned Florida State Senate seat in 2017 amid multiple scandals.

Days after the 2020 election, Miami-Dade officials began an investigation into Artiles, who allegedly recruited and paid nearly $45,000 for fake candidate Alex Rodriguez to run for the state senate seat in his district.

Even though he didn’t run a formal campaign, Alex Rodriguez got more than 6,000 votes, enabling Republican candidate Ilena Garcia to win the seat against Democratic incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez by just 31 votes.

Authorities believe Artiles chose Alex Rodriguez to seek office as an independent candidate to create confusion among voters since both the incumbent Democrat and the independent candidates share the same last name.

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Investigators allege Artiles paid Alex Rodriguez to run as an independent candidate to draw votes away from the Democratic candidate who shared the same last name.

Both Artiles and Alex Rodriguez are currently facing felony charges related to election violations.

“I can’t comment. This is an open case. It will be decided in the courts,” Artiles told reporters, shortly after bonding out of jail.

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Warrant for the arrest of Frank Artiles after elections officials say he fronted money to shill candidate.

Law enforcement officials say Garcia, the current state senator, had no knowledge of nor participation in the scheme.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com.