MIAMI (AP) - South Florida congressman Joe Garcia said Saturday that the "system is prone to fraud" following the resignation of his chief of staff amid a voting fraud scheme.
The Miami Democrat said he asked Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, for his resignation on Friday after the staffer took responsibility for the plot. Law enforcement investigators had also raided the homes of the congressman's communications director and his 2012 campaign manager.
At a press conference on Saturday, Garcia said: "I think it was a well-intentioned attempt to maximize voter turnout."
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Rep. Garcia is cooperating with her office, and prosecutors don't believe he knew anything about the fraud.
Authorities were investigating a sophisticated 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 for absentee ballots under state election laws. Violations may be considered felony fraud.
None of the requests were filled because the elections department's software flagged them as suspicious. If they had been filled, then campaigns would have been able to direct phone calls, fliers and home visits to the voters to try to win their support. Fraudsters also could have attempted to steal the ballots from unsuspecting voters' mailboxes.
Garcia won the primary and later defeated incumbent Republican David Rivera in the general election. That primary resulted in a separate, federal corruption investigation into whether Rivera had ties to the illegally funded primary campaign of one of Garcia's opponents. Rivera has denied any wrongdoing. Fernandez Rundle said her investigation is not connected to Rivera or the federal investigation.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)