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Florida foils web-based voter fraud plot, but next attempt could be more elusive

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FILE: An undated picture of a U.S. voter filing out an absentee ballot.AP

A Florida case could signal the wave of the future in voter fraud. 

South Florida election officials have reportedly foiled a plot to fraudulently apply online for thousands of absentee ballots in three 2012 primaries, but the masterminds remain at large amid concern that they could be successful the next time around by making minor adjustments.

Officials in the state’s Miami-Dade region said they blocked the effort to get 2,552 absentee ballots in three August primaries because the requests rolled in just minutes apart on July 7, 2012, according to The Miami Herald, which conducted its own investigation.

A six-month grand jury probe found the requests were made under the cover of international Internet provider addresses and were limited to three races --- a congressional race in which the hackers tried to request absentee ballots for Democratic voters and two state legislative races in which they tried to get ballots for Republican voters.

But the newspaper found at least two of the requests originated in Miami and could have been further traced, which purported has prompted State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to review at least some parts of the case.

The absentee ballots still would have gone to the rightful voters. So short of stealing ballots from mailbox, the hackers’ only way to have swayed or flipped the voters would likely have been to inundate them with calls and mailers.  

Officials say the ballots would not have changed the outcome of the races. But there is a concern that another attempt, with hackers slowing the pace of the requests, could go undetected.

Steven Rambam, a New York-based private investigator with experience in computer database and privacy issues, told the newspaper that the hackers -- with a little more skill -- could have included computer code to keep the program from triggering the elections department’s safeguard.