Miami police say an officer will be disciplined after he donned a pro-Trump mask while dressed in full uniform with a badge and his gun at an early voting site Tuesday in what one Democrat described as a “brazen” attempt at voter intimidation.
Steve Simeonidis, the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, was moving through the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami around 10:30 a.m. when he spotted Officer Daniel Ubeda in a mask that read, “TRUMP 2020; NO MORE BULLSHIT,” walking toward the early voting site inside the county government building.
Simeonidis told BuzzFeed News Ubeda got within 10 feet of people who were voting. Under Florida law, only voters, poll workers, official poll watchers, and other individuals approved by election supervisors are permitted to enter a polling place. No one is allowed to solicit voters inside or within 150 feet of the entrance to a voting site, and it is illegal under both state and federal laws to intimidate voters by any means.
Simeonidis said he was so shocked by the officer’s behavior and felt he needed to take a photograph.
“I just said, ‘Excuse me, officer, I just want to take a picture,’ and he made some snide comment,” Simeonidis said. “He called me ‘sweetheart’ or something like that — just complete disregard of the fact that he was intentionally intimidating voters at the polling location.”
It wasn’t clear if Ubeda was at the government center in an official capacity or to vote himself.
“In my mind, it’s per se voter intimidation,” Simeonidis said. “He knew exactly what he was doing when he was walking into that polling site with a gun and that mask on.”
He said he watched Ubeda stand near the early voting site “hovering for a bit” in “full view of dozens of people that were casting their ballots.”
“It was a brazen act of intimidation,” Simeonidis said.
Miami police said on Twitter that the department was aware of the incident, calling Ubeda’s behavior “unacceptable” and saying that it was a violation of departmental policy which was “being addressed immediately.”
Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier told the Miami Herald that “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken against Ubeda, though it was unclear what that action would be.
“Obviously this is a clear violation of our department policy regarding campaigning while on duty,” Papier said. “Additionally, the mask has offensive language, which is also a violation of department policy.”
A spokesperson for the department declined to provide additional comment on the matter to BuzzFeed News.
The incident comes just one day after early voting began in Florida and after Miami officials announced they would be deploying plainclothes officers near voting sites to reassure “scared” voters. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina also said uniformed patrols would be stepped up across the city.
“We are going to have a robust presence of uniformed personnel out and about in the streets so everyone can see we are available,” Colina said.
Simeonidis urged Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to reverse the decision to deploy officers near polling locations, saying that their presence in the area could have a negative effect.
“That may have been crafted with the best intentions, but in practice it has catastrophic effects and I would urge the city to immediately reverse that and ensure that polls are secure through a subtle ununiformed presence if any,” he said.
Suarez did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.