By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
They were vying for the seat in newly configured District 107, and Watson seemed to have the advantage after the close vote count triggered a manual recount. But Julien was not willing to call it quits. He felt cheated and he was prepared to challenge the whole system.
“She didn’t do any mail. She did not canvass, meaning going door to door,” Julien told Florida Watchdog. “I fully expected that she would do very well in some communities. What I did not expect was for her to beat me in absentee ballots.”
In absentee ballots alone for the Democratic primary, Julien received 1025 votes — 83 votes less than went to Watson. In total, Watson received 5,282 and Julien, 5,269.
“For me, it all made sense when I discovered that a person who calls herself the ‘absentee ballot queen’ who received $4,770 from my opponent’s campaign,” said Julien, hinting of a larger organized effort to tilt the election away from his favor.
Watson has not responded to requests for comment from Florida Watchdog.
“This ‘queen of absentee ballots’ was also paid by the campaign of (county commissioner) Barbara Jordan, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, of District 17, and the Americans for Democratic Actions Political Action Committee,” Julien added.
The self-identified “queen” is Miami Gardens resident Noucelie Josna, according to the websites VotersOpinion and Political Cortadito.
Campaign finance reports obtained by Florida Watchdog reveal that several payments were made to Josna by the Jordon, Wilson and Watson campaigns.
The Democracy Project Inc., a registered PAC, also made a $2,000 payment to Josna and they have the same registered address in county election records.
Josna did not return calls for comment.
“I went, with the information I have, to the State Attorney’s Office on Monday,” said Julien.
“Also, I have a recording of another individual who does absentee ballots where she recorded an advertisement in Haitian Creole, telling individuals that ‘when you receive your absentee ballots, please call me’ and I’ll help you ‘vote the right way.’
“That why I’m saying that there is absentee ballot fraud in my race,” Julien said.
On Aug. 20, Paul Crespo, another candidate who said he believes he lost his election because of absentee ballot fraud, sent a letter to Miami–Dade State’s Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle outlining his case.
Pedro Garcia, the incumbent Miami-Dade property appraiser, also told Florida Watchdog that absentee voter fraud led to his defeat in the election on Aug. 14, and he was prepared to push for an investigation at all levels of government.
Fernandez-Rundle declined to give an interview on camera but responded to Florida Watchdog by email.
“Soon we will be inviting the Republican candidate Paul Crespo to meet with someone from our Public Corruption Unit in order to allow Mr. Crespo to bring us the evidence that can prove his allegations about absentee ballot irregularities,” she wrote.
Though voter fraud has achieved large headlines in Florida, other states also are dealing with the problem, bringing together coalitions from the left and right who are concerned about legitimate elections.
One of the most recent case happened in Massachusetts on Aug. 7, when Secretary of State William Galvin publicly acknowledged the growing problem of voter registration fraud and vowed to investigate it further.
The initial problem came to light, when residents from the town of East Longmeadow told elections officials someone changed their party affiliations without their permission, according to the ABC 40.
In Ohio, the Montgomery County Board of Elections began an investigation of possible voter registration fraud on Aug. 6, after receiving more than a hundred fraudulent registration cards from a single organization. Many of the voter registration cards turned out to have false or nonexistent addresses, according to the Dayton Daily News.
“If we allow these absentee ballot fraudsters to continue to operate in broad daylight then, in essence, what we’re saying is the only way anyone could get elected in the United States of America — where democracy is supposed to reign supreme — is if you deal with the criminal element. That is just a shame,” Julien told Florida Watchdog.
“This seems like it was the trial run to the presidential election. I think everyone is sharpening their skills and one side is looking to steal the presidential election in state of Florida.
“The absentee ballots were not meant to be an election changer. They were designed to allow our military personnel to vote, and those individuals who had to be out of the country temporarily to allow them to do their civic duty and vote,” said Julien.
“What we have turned it into right now is something that is deplorable and it must end.”
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated and contributed to this article.
Contact Marianela Toledo at [email protected]
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