Since Representative Joe Garcia's chief of staff resigned on Friday after admitting to taking part in an absentee ballot fraud scheme, the congressman has expressed outrage and called the fiasco an opportunity to fix the flawed absentee ballot process.
Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, takes full responsibility for the plot, he said.
"We were angry and tremendously bothered by this," said Rep. Garcia (D-FL 26th District) at a Saturday morning press conference. "I can't tell you the disappointment we feel about when this happens. Clearly, I've marked my career on having a position of strength on these issues. And there can be zero tolerance for anything like this."
Authorities are investigating a scheme to manipulate last year's primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests. Only voters, their immediate family members or their legal guardians can submit requests under state election laws. Violations may be considered a third-degree felony.
No ballots were tampered with and no election results affected, he said.
Garcia said the scheme was an ill-conceived effort meant to increase voter participation and access.
"We have a flawed voter absentee process," he said. "We need to fix this in a broader way."
Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz responded to the investigation on the party's Facebook page.
"The ugly truth has finally come out about Democrat Joe Garcia's employees doing everything they can to rig his election," Diaz said. "We should all be demanding answers from Joe Garcia himself."
Law enforcement investigators also raided the homes of the congressman's communications director Giancarlo Sopo and his 2012 campaign manager John Estes.
"He said to me he was not involved, I take him at his word," Garcia said in reference to Sopo. "Hopefully all of that will be cleared up as we work with the State Attorney's Office."
Sopo will probably be put on administrative leave, he added.
Rep. Garcia said he has not spoken to Estes as of Saturday morning.
The congressman said he is cooperating with the State Attorney's Office.
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