Two women--one known as “Teacher Carline” and another who branded herself as the “Queen of Absentee Ballots”—have become central figures in a court case challenging a razor-thin South Florida primary race that hinges on allegations of voter fraud.
On Monday, a Leon County circuit court judge ordered Carline Paul, who allegedly acted as a ballot broker in North Miami’s Haitian community, to fly to Tallahassee on Wednesday to testify. Noucelie Josna, the self-described absentee ballot queen also accused of tampering with votes, has apparently gone off the radar.
“She’s gone completely AWOL,” said JC Planas, an attorney representing Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-North Miami, in his challenge of his 13-vote loss to Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens.
In his court challenge, Julien alleges that several dead people cast absentee ballots from one North Miami nursing home, and Paul went to another to gather up absentee ballots from people who now say they never voted in the Aug. 14 primary.
Watson’s campaign paid $1,000 to an entity owned by Paul, who ran radio ads telling Haitian Creole-speaking North Miamians to “consult” with her before casting their absentee ballots, in order to “vote correctly.”
Watson in the past has denied any fraud in her campaign. Julien has said that Josna played a role in collecting fraudulent absentee ballots, and Planas believes that’s why she has not responded to a court subpoena. A private investigator has been called in to track her down.
“There’s a reason why they don’t want to testify,” said Planas, who said it was not a coincidence that Watson’s campaign paid both Josna and Paul. “If there was nothing wrong that they did, then you come in, you give a deposition, you say, ‘I made phone calls, I did this, I did that. I didn’t do anything wrong’.”
One nursing home described in Julien’s complaint as a fraud hotspot was called “Watercrest.” At least 10 individuals requested absentee ballots all on the same day and voted on Aug. 14 in the primary. Four of those voters were either dead or no longer stationed at the nursing home and several others said that someone else filled out their ballots they did not remember who they voted for, according to the complaint.
At the Claridge House nursing home, six people voted by absentee ballot. Julien’s complaint states that Paul’s mother was once stationed at Claridge House, and that Paul is still a “constant presence” there.
On Monday, a judge ordered Claridge House to release information showing the dates that Paul’s mother was a patient there.
Planas, a former Republican legislator, said he was willing to go as far as challenging Watson’s seating in the Florida Legislature, if necessary.
Julien echoed the sentiment.
“For me to just sit back and allow what is happening now, would be a travesty,” said Julien. “I can’t stop.”@ToluseO