Mack Bernard files challenge, says 49 voters didn’t have ballots counted in 17-vote loss to Jeff Clemensby Andrew Abramson | August 31st, 2012
Mack Bernard has filed a lawsuit in court that seeks to overturn Jeff Clemens’ 17-vote win in the State Senate 27 race. The lawsuit was not immediately available.
Richard Giorgio, a campaign consultant for Bernard, said there are 40 absentee ballots that were not counted because the supervisor’s office determined that the signatures on the absentee ballot envelope did not match the signature on file. Giorgio said the campaign has sworn affidavits from these voters that it was in fact their signature.
“We’re going to present some evidence to the judge that those ballots should be counted and they are in fact valid and legitimate,” Giorgio said. “The signatures are of the voters that completed them, and there is no reason for them not to be counted.”
Giorgio also said there are nine voters who filled out provisional ballots correctly, but that the ballots were thrown out because the poll worker failed to list the voters’ party registration.
The lawsuit lists Bernard, Mangonia Park councilwoman Addie Greene and Phillippe Louis Jeune as plaintiffs.
Clemens, the Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Palm Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater, County Judge Caroline Shepherd, Carrie Ward adn Amy Borman are all named as defendants.
Bernard’s challenge has angered the state’s Democratic establishment. While Clemens and Bernard are both Democratic state representatives, without a Republican in the race, much of the GOP and business support went to Bernard.
“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 Clemens. “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.”
Giorgio said he “saw no evidence that any of the ballots were signed by the same person,” and he said Cate’s statements about votes being counted and recounted ”makes no sense.”
“These ballots have never been counted,” Giorgio said.
According to state statue, the circuit court “may not review or consider any evidence other than the signature on the voter’s certificate and the signature of the elector in the registration records. The court’s review of such issue shall be to determine only if the canvassing board abused its discretion in making its decision.”
After all the precincts were counted on election night and Clemens had a 1.5 percent lead, he celebrated an apparent victory. But his lead continued to shrink as absentee votes were counted.
Bernard’s campaign credited a Republican-style strategy of targeting absentee voters. In this case, the campaign went after Haitian-American voters by signing them up for an absentee ballot and then picking up the sealed ballots and delivering them to the Supervisor of Elections office so the voters didn’t have to pay postage. The campaign estimated that it delivered 1,000 absentee ballots to the county.
The winner of the primary will not technically win the seat until November. After being certified as the winner in the primary, Clemens will face a write-in candidate in the general election, unless a judge overturns the primary results.