MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida representative Jean Patrick Julien, (D)-North Miami Beach, says he will wage a court battle challenging his razor-thin defeat last week. Julien lost to fellow Democrat Barbara Watson by a scant 13 votes. He believes he would have won, but for election fraud.
Police have charged two so-called “boleteros,” or ballot brokers, with illegally possessing absentee ballots and submitting or attempting to submit forged ones.
Julien went to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office Monday with what he called evidence of a third boletero submitting hundreds of absentee ballots on election day. Julien said the woman, whose business card boasts she is the “Queen of Absentee Ballots,” approached him wanting “thousands of dollars” to deliver the absentee vote. He told her he wasn’t interested.
Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, said several prosecutors did meet with Julien Monday and that he provided a “limited amount of information,” and is expected to be providing more.
Carolina Lopez, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Elections Office, said the county code prohibits the type of mass delivery of absentee ballots that Julien alleges.
“The county code allows you to bring your ballot and two more. One has to be from a family member,” Lopez said.
If hundreds of ballots were somehow delivered and accepted at the elections office Tuesday, it most probably would have been captured by video cameras that blanket the facility. CBS4 News has placed a public records request for the video.
So far, police have charged Deisy Cabrera and Sergio Robaina of Hialeah with illegally collecting and submitting ballots, forging some of them.
The pair was arrested only after private detective Joe Carillo reportedly caught them red-handed and presented his evidence to police and the state attorney.
We know now that Carillo was hired and paid by Eric Johnson, a Hialeah firefighter and union officer, who says he was acting as a private citizen, fed up with an absentee ballot system that is “out of control.”
Johnson said he had complained to the state attorney, police, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement “for years” about boleteros operating openly in Hialeah, but nothing was done until after he hired the private eye.
“I went down every avenue, told everyone I could what was going on – gave them names – and doors would always be shut,” Johnson said. “Basically it was always said, ‘you just don’t have enough evidence.'”
Johnson said he had no beef with any politician and doesn’t believe most candidates are even aware that ballot brokers are working for them, that they’re retained by consultants to the candidates.
“I don’t have an agenda,” Johnson said. “I’m a normal citizen, just like you.”
As for Representative Julien, he said a legal challenge to the results of his race is a certainty.
“My parents didn’t leave Haiti to bring us to the country, so that we could live the American dream, only to have elections stolen from us like in third world countries,” Julien said.
Miami-Dade Mayoral candidate Joe Martinez is considering a legal challenge to his loss, as well. The absentee results kept Martinez from winning a run-off shot with Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Also weighing a court fight is Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia, unseated by Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Despite winning the election day vote and the early voting, Garcia was trounced in the absentees. Lopez-Cantera has credited smart campaign strategy for his large absentee win.