Former Florida Senator’s arrest raises concerns about 3rd-party candidates in general elections

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Florida lawmakers seek to tighten vote-by-mail rules, one ex-Senator’s arrest is raising questions about other forms of election tampering.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced felony charges last week for former State Rep. and Senator Frank Artiles and “ghost candidate” Alexis Pedro Rodriguez.

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Artiles is accused of paying Rodriguez $45,000 to influence a key Miami race.

There are concerns there were more suspicious third-party candidates in elections across the state, but the legislature hasn’t shown any interest in investigating.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R - Hernando County), who is pushing to overhaul Florida’s election laws in the house, declined to comment on the allegations out of South Florida.

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“I am not going to speak to the specifics of that case,” Rep. Ingoglia said. “What I would tell you, the allegation of voter fraud in that specific case has to do with campaign finance.”

However, it’s not the only race in which a mystery third candidate suddenly showed up on the ballot.

In Central Florida, a third-party candidate emerged in the Seminole County Senate District 9 race between Jason Brodeur and Patricia Sigman.

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While Brodeur won with more than 50 percent of the vote, the funding behind the third party candidate remains obscure.

“When you have sham candidates in races, and we have seen that, and no response to that...nothing included in the bill to address that,” said Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D - Orlando). “We can’t say that we’re very concerned about preventing voter fraud.”