By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI— Gov. Rick Scott dedicated vast resources to reducing fraud at the ballot box, by attempting to eliminate noncitizens from the voter rolls, refining early voting and pushing for more stringent ID requirements needed to cast a vote.
But in the face of several fumbled vote counts and delayed results throughout the state, Scott has asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to meet with local officials to refine the process.
“We need to make improvements in our election process. If even one Floridian has lost confidence in our voting process, we need to do whatever we can to make sure that confidence is restored,” the governor acknowledged in a statement.
Voters in Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties faced up to six hours to cast ballots.
“Florida has 67 independent, elected or appointed election supervisors who run elections in their counties and most of them did not have excessive lines or other problems tabulating votes,” Scott said.
Scott’s comments follow the latest move in the ongoing ballot saga for U.S. Rep. Allen West, who has requested a recount in St. Lucie County after early reports show him losing by just a few thousand votes to Democrat Patrick Murphy.
“Late last night Congressman West maintained a district-wide lead of nearly 2,000 votes until the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections ‘recounted’ thousands of early ballots,” campaign manager Tim Edson said Wednesday.
After the recount, West seems to have lost by just more than 2,400 votes, but he has vowed legal action to force another look at the vote.
In Broward County, concerns were raised over elections supervisor Brenda Snipes’ acknowledgement that nearly 1,000 ballots had been “overlooked” because they were improperly stored and “were not counted in the final result,” according to WSVN.
State officials have been sent to oversee ballot recounts in the few remaining counties, according to the Florida Department of State, and Secretary of State Ken Detzner will meet with county election supervisors to see what can be addressed going forward.
Former state Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-District 107, filed a lawsuit claiming electoral fraud in his primary loss in August. He said it was better to do it late than to never to look at reforming the system.
“Changes in the electoral laws couldn’t come at a better time. Now we have the opportunity,” he said.
Julien found what he considered evidence of absentee voter fraud in his district, related to an alleged “boletera,” or ballot collector, employed by his opponent Barbara Watson.
He points to campaign payments made to a woman who describes herself as the “queen of absentee ballots,” well-known in the community for her ability to collect votes for certain candidates, according to Julien.
That was no sufficient evidence for the judge, however, who ultimately dismissed lawsuit because of a lack of evidence. Julien said he accepts the judge’s ruling, but remains adamant that fraud remains a problem.
“I did my job to expose fraud by those handling absentee ballots in Miami-Dade, if not nationwide,” he told Florida Watchdog. “And I hope the Legislature can start from there.”
Miami-Dade County Commission President Joe Martinez also filed a lawsuit after losing his bid for county mayor against incumbent Carlos Giménez, but later dropped the suit because of “legal impediments,” according to his spokesman.
Reacting to ballot problems, the newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart told Florida Watchdog that “any incident of fraud endangers democracy.”
He said that though election fraud can’t be eliminated completely, the government should do everything possible to minimize it.
In the most recent general election, 8.5 million Floridians cast ballots; 2.4 million by absentee vote.
The final results will be certified by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in the coming days.
Contact Marianela Toledo: Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.
Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.
— Marianela Toledo (@mtoledoreporter) November 14, 2012