Judge reviews absentee ballots in disputed House Race
By Margie Menzel
The News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FL — The lawyer for state Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, said on Oct. 16, 2012 that a Tallahassee judge held “a third recount” in a voting fraud case over a disputed Miami-Dade election.
Watson beat her fellow freshman Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-North Miami Beach, by 13 votes in the Democratic primary for House District 107 in August.
Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Francis and Miami-Dade elections official Zeida Reyes reviewed the absentee ballots for two precincts, the 130th and the 123rd. Francis questioned the signatures on six ballots.
Watson’s attorney, Christopher Benjamin, said the six ballots questioned by the judge weren’t enough to change the outcome.
“There was already two recounts in this election,” Christopher said. “The results still went to Rep. Watson. You’ve now heard the third recount and you’ve seen the results of that again. They have not gotten more than 13 votes – as a matter of fact, I believe the count was six.”
Julien, who won the early-voting and primary-day balloting in those precincts, contends Watson won the election by employing ballot brokers who turned in fraudulent absentee ballots from nursing-home residents.
Julien’s attorney, former Republican lawmaker J.C. Planas, said he will decide Wednesday whether to challenge the absentee ballots from the entire district or just from the two precincts. Planas said the six questioned ballots came from just two of the district’s 50 precincts.
“It was always our intention to have only the absentee ballots of these two precincts thrown out,’’ Planas said. “And that is still our intention. But you have to wonder: If you found six questionable ones from just two precincts, what would the others yield?”
The two precincts were chosen as the sites of facilities where the ballot brokers are alleged to have gathered the absentee ballots.
The hearing continues Wednesday. Francis ordered ballot broker Carline Paul to be in court to answer questions about her role.
Benjamin said he expected her to be in Francis’ Tallahassee courtroom – but Planas predicted that if Paul did attend, she’d plead the Fifth Amendment.