Anyone looking for a little nostalgia from the 2000 Bush-vs-Gore Florida election can review last week's Democratic primary in House District 107, between South Florida incumbents John Patrick Julien and Barbara Watson.
- A razor-thin margin separating the winner from the loser? Check.
- Allegations of broken voting machines? Check.
- Dispute over absentee ballots? Check.
- A manual recount? Check.
- Lawsuit challenging the result? Coming soon.
Watson officially won the race with 50.06 percent of the vote—a 13 vote edge—but Julien said he was not planning to wave the white flag any time soon.
“I’m not conceding defeat,” said Julien, pointing out a number of voting irregularities and potential voter fraud that he says may have skewed the outcome.
First, he is alleging that election laws may have been broken by so-called “ballot-brokers” who offer to deliver absentee ballots in Florida. It's illegal for anyone to dump loads of absentee ballots at a precinct on election day.
Watson said that the absentee ballot fraud that has been in the news lately was not a problem in District 107, which covers a mostly urban section of northern Miami-Dade County.
The state attorney’s office said it was reviewing Julien’s complaint.
But Julien claims other voting irregularities may have swung the race as well.
“In precinct 125, which is Highland Village, there are 501 registered voters,” he said. “I stood [at that precinct] for half an hour. I watched people go in and come out and many of them said they voted for me. After looking at the results, zero votes were registered in that precinct. Since this precinct is in North Miami Beach, I believe I would have gotten a large number of votes out of that precinct.”
Watson said she also visited several polling stations on election day, and noticed nothing abnormal.
“I did go out to the polls on the day of the election,” she said. “I went out to the polling sites. I saw no such incidents.”
Julien said he is compiling evidence to bring a legal challenge to the election results in the next few days, meaning the final outcome could be decided in court. If the results hold, Watson will face two write-in candidates in the November general election.
The Bush-v-Gore-ish race comes just a couple months before the presidential election, where Florida is expected to play a key role. Meanwhile, the state is gearing up to purge suspected non-citizens from the voting rolls, fighting in court over changes to the early voting program and monitoring criminal investigations into absentee ballot brokers in Hialeah.
“I have zero faith in the system right now,” Julien said.