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Robert Asencio is sworn in to the Florida House despite attempt by David Rivera to challenge him

Robert Asencioby @MaryEllenKlas

After a ruling by the Secretary of State that Democrat Robert Asencio's 53-vote victory over former state Rep. David Rivera was legitimate, the Florida House swore in the Democrat and rejected Rivera's seating challenge. 

The House unanimously rejected the formal challenge for House District 118 Tuesday, during the House's post-election organizational session, after the Florida Canvassing Board, headed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner certified the vote after a recount.

After 10 hours of counting ballots, Miami-Dade County elections department last week declared that Asencio finished with 31,412 votes and Rivera 31,359 — a margin 15 votes closer than when the recount began.

"There is no assertion and no evidence submitted that the Miami-Dade canvassing board...In other words, there was no allegation of any irregularity,'' said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Umatilla, who moved to dismiss the seating challenge. The motion was unanimously approved. 

Rivera’s lawyers asked elections officials to impound about 300 disputed ballots — mostly absentee ballots on which the voter’s signature was either missing or ruled not to match signatures in elections department records -- and asked the Florida House leadership to halt Asencio's swearing in until the ballots were reviewed.

Rivera said the he had received affidavits from 59 of those voters saying they voted by mail and cast their ballots for him and should be counted. But the recruitment and review of selected affidavits would have been unprecedented in a race that did not involve fraud. 

The unanimous vote of the House seated everyone who was sworn in and deemed them all qualified. 

 "Seeing that the House of Representatives is the sole judge of the qualifications, elections and returns of its members, by a vote of the House, you are now officially members of the House of Representatives. Congratulations," said outgoing House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.  

Photo: Robert Asencio