Florida Republican's Campaign Crew Sure Liked Chatting About Election Fraud
Alex Díaz de la Portilla, former Florida Republican state senator, is in hot water over a leaked WhatsApp chat log that appears to show campaign workers chatting about destroying or disappearing absentee ballots filled out for the candidate's opponent in the nonpartisan county election, according to the Miami New Times. Díaz de la Portilla ultimately came in third in the May 2018 special election for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission, so even if some of his people did deep-six some ballots, it didn't apparently help him. Clearly, these pikers could have learned a lot from the experts in North Carolina about electoral fuckery.
Still, you have to appreciate just how brilliantly Díaz de la Portilla plays the role of a local pol accused of just a teensy bit of ratfucking.
Diaz de la Portilla did not initially respond to messages from New Times [Monday] afternoon , including two left on his personal cell phone. He is currently running for City of Miami Commission.
But after this story was published, Diaz de la Portilla texted New Times and claimed the chat logs were not associated with him in any way.
"None of this is from my campaign or my campaign workers," he said. "Your article is libelous."
That should make for a heck of a lawsuit, since the Spanish language chat logs sure looked to reporter Jerry Iannelli like they involved people working on the campaign. The chat included "names and multiple working phone numbers," and the conversation sure sounds like a local political campaign, talking about phone banking for Díaz de la Portilla and saying at one point that he'd liked some idea or another.
The candidate is referenced consistently throughout the discussion. The vast majority of the chat appears to show various campaign volunteers coordinating meeting points and canvassing plans throughout the county. Most of the file is mundane — the volunteers spent a lot of time discussing lunch plans, for example [...]
A source with knowledge of the thread said the people involved, who are in most cases identified only by phone numbers, had been gathered by a local campaign consultant to canvass District 5.
As for the potentially fraudy stuff, it's pretty low-level fuckery, but election fraud all the same, if the campaign workers actually went ahead and acted on their ballot-destroying fantasies. In one instance, someone posted a photo of a vote-by mail ballot they claimed they'd purloined from a voter, then wondered what to do with it, since maybe the vote was for Zoraida Barreiro, the frontrunner in the race, whose husband had previously held the seat.
"Stolen, hahahaa. The lady gave it to us, but what do we do if she voted for Zoraida????"
New Times reached a woman at that phone number. When the woman was asked about the text thread, she hung up.
Then others started chiming in with suggestions, including a funny joke about taking the ballot to a local towing company that must have been hilarious but that you had to be there.
Person 1: Tear up the ballot and throw it away good.
Person 2: Are you sure?
Person 1: Take it to [NAME REDACTED].
Person 2: Take it better.
Person 3: She will know what to do.
Person 3: Okay, perfect!
Person 4: [Thumbs up and happy-face emojis]
Person 5: Take it to [TOWING COMPANY] at the end. Make sure that nobody sees it please.
Person 2: Nooo
Person 2: I already have it super hidden.
Person 5: [Thumbs-up emoji]
Person 2: Ready!
Person 2: Thank God we took away votes from two Democrats, hahaha
Remember, non-partisan election. Iannelli has an image of the conversation in Spanish, too, in case you want to see the receipts.
In another case, someone posted a photo of an open ballot with a vote filled in for Barreiro and added the comment "Byebye," which sounds bad until you realize that's actually Miami slang for "I must bring this to the attention of the proper election authorities posthaste."
After the volunteer posted the image, another member texted, "Eliminada." The volunteer then responded by simply writing, "Hahahaha."
Iannelli notes that, duh, destroying ballots is illegal AF, and for that matter, "the act of photographing a ballot is a first-degree misdemeanor." (He also cites the relevant section of Florida law, which strikes us as padding.)
It remains to be seen whether the fuckery went any further than hilarious jokes about stealing and destroying ballots. Iannelli noted the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office hadn't responded to a query about whether the matter was being investigated, nobody at the phone numbers in the WhatsApp log would talk to him, and Díaz de la Portilla is presumably talking to attorneys about starting that big ol' libel case. If that doesn't pan out, he can always bemoan the scurrilous leaking of private conversations, what is this world coming to.
And Díaz de la Portilla has a rich history of penny-ante shittiness, including a raft of drivers license suspensions, plus some more serious stuff:
In 2001, the Florida Division of Elections fined him a whopping $311,000 after he allegedly violated election-reporting laws "several hundred times." (He was also charged with several misdemeanor crimes but maintained his innocence and was ultimately acquitted.) In 2010, he was accused of stalking his former spouse. In 2012, he was arrested in Boston after police said he was "belligerent" and refused to stop smoking cigarettes inside his hotel room.
By Florida standards, he may qualify for a good citizenship medal.
Ultimately, neither Díaz de la Portilla nor Barriero got the seat. Barriero came in second to Eileen Higgins in the 2018 special election, but neither received over 50 percent, so they went to a run-off in June. Higgins, a progressive who was originally from Ohio, won by six points, making her the first non-Hispanic person to hold the seat in decades. She's fluent in Spanish, however, and cheerfully took on the campaign nickname "La Gringa," which we think is kind of neat. Apparently Miami-Dade voters did, too.
Update/Correction: the first version of this story said Barriero finished first in the May 2018 special election; she came in second to Higgins by 220 votes. Wonkette regrets the error.
And Republicans will continue to insist there's a huge problem with Democrats voting illegally -- remember the absolutely baseless claims that counting all the votes in the midterms was cheating? States will keep making voting much more difficult to fight this nonexistent threat. And if Rs end up actually committing some fraud of their own now and then -- or at least talking about it, for larffs -- you can't really blame them, since they're just balancing out all the Democratic schemes they know are happening but can't find much evidence for.
Still, we hope Republicans have learned the lesson from this sordid little episode: Never write anything down, and be sure you destroy the evidence.
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