Bernard files suit to overturn Senate Dist. 27 race
By Michael Peltier
The News Service Of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FL — August 31, 2012……, Senate District 27 Democratic candidate Mack Bernard on Friday filed suit in circuit court to force Palm Beach County election officials to count 48 discarded absentee and provisional ballots as he attempts to reverse his 17-vote primary loss to challenger Jeff Clemens.
“The right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental liberty enjoyed by citizens in a democratic society,” the lawsuit contends. “When election officials improperly and thus illegally discard ballots without following the law or the previously approved consistent standards they have set in the past, they have the result of disenfranchising the electorate.”
The lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, claims more than 40 absentee ballots were improperly rejected by officials who said the signatures on the forms didn’t match. In addition, eight provisional ballots were rejected without informing the voters of that fact.
“This lawsuit is very limited in scope,” said Bernard’s attorney JC Planas, a former Republican state House member. “We are not trying to invalidate any votes nor discard any votes. Quite the opposite, we are asking the Court to count certain votes that should not have been rejected.”
Attached to the lawsuit were affidavits from 23 voters who say the signature on the absentee ballot was their own. Another four eligible voters swore that their provisional ballots were improperly discarded and they were not informed, according to the complaint.
A spokesman for Bernard’s opponent said the votes have been sufficiently vetted and it’s time to move on. The winner of the primary faces only write-in opposition in the heavily Democratic district.
“Mack Bernard and his Republican lawyer are ridiculously cherry-picking invalid ballots to try to litigate an already certified election,” said Kevin Cate, a spokesman for the Clemens’ campaign. “Counting invalid ballots, several of which were signed by the same person, is absurd. The ballots were counted, recounted, and hand counted–Jeff Clemens won every time.”
The election was one of a handful of razor thin races decided earlier this month. Another case also expected to be decided in the courts pits Democrat John Julien against Barbara Watson. Julien lost a nail-biter to Watson by 13 votes in the House District 107 primary. Planas is handling both cases.