The office of Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor on Thursday said it will “review” the outcome of a police internal affairs investigation into the Miami officer spotted wearing a pro-Trump mask while in uniform at an early voting site.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, in a statement on Thursday, echoed the Miami police chief in calling the mask “unacceptable.”
“Wearing one’s police uniform at a voting site while expressing a political opinion may be construed as an official attempt to send a distinct message to potential voters,” Fernandez Rundle said in the statement.
Fernandez Rundle, a Democrat who won re-election in August, issued the statement two days after Officer Daniel Ubeda sparked outrage by wearing the mask while he waited in line to early vote at Miami-Dade’s Government Center.
He was spotted by Steve Simeonidis, the chair of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party, who was walking through Government Center. Simeonidis tweeted a photo of Ubeda — which quickly went viral and garnered national headlines — while saying the mask violated a state law prohibiting public employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election ... or coercing or influencing another person’s vote.”
Miami’s police chief and mayor quickly denounced the mask, saying Ubeda would be disciplined for breaking department policies.
On Thursday, Fernandez Rundle weighed in through her statement. Fernandez Rundle also said she asked her “staff to look into this matter,” a vague statement that left it unclear whether it was a full-blown criminal investigation. Simeonidis seemed to think so, tweeting that her office is “is looking into criminal charges.”
Asked for a clarification, a State Attorney’s spokesman said: “The City of Miami IA is investigating the matter. We [will] collaborate with them during their investigation and we will review their findings once the investigation is complete.”
Proving a criminal charge might be challenging, however, especially if no actual voters complain that Ubeda’s appearance intimidated them.
Miami’s police union says Ubeda was expressing his right to free speech, and that Ubeda is allowed to vote while in uniform.
Intimidation at the polls has been a major talking point in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election pitting Republican President Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joseph Biden. Local police departments have vowed to ensure peace at early voting sites, and at precincts on voting day.
Fernandez Rundle has also reactivated a voter fraud task force, designed to respond to complaints about intimidation and fraud.
“I encourage anyone who suspects improper or irregular activity to speak to them or call our Voter Protection Hotline at 305-547-3300,” she said in her statement. “As always, we stand ready to do whatever we reasonably can to protect the integrity of our elections, the voters, and their ballots.”