Miami-Dade Commissioner Barreiro in runoff with Garcia, updated election results show

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro was nine votes shy of avoiding a runoff against state Rep. Luis Garcia, after the elections department counted provisional ballots and a disputed absentee ballot in the race.

08/17/2012 6:00 AM

08/18/2012 5:02 PM

It’s official: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro will be on the ballot again in November, in a runoff against rival Luis Garcia.

After the county elections department on Friday counted provisional ballots — and one disputed absentee ballot — cast Tuesday in the race, Barreiro came up nine votes short of the 50-percent-plus-one vote majority required to avoid a runoff.

The final results: Barreiro, 49.95 percent, and Garcia, 33.05 percent. The two will face off again for the District 5 seat on Nov. 6.

“Let’s rock!” a joyous Garcia said after the official results were announced, shortly before noon.

Garcia, a state representative who was supposed to be headed to Disney World for a post-election vacation, had arrived only a few minutes earlier, saying he hadn’t realized the canvassing meeting, which lasted three hours, would be “such a fuss.’’

Barreiro, a 14-year incumbent, was present from the beginning of the meeting — along with his two lawyers, who argued that nine rejected, disputed absentee ballots in the race should be counted.

Attorneys Joe Geller and Robert Fernandez brought three voters to the meeting, and said they had affidavits from six others, to prove that the voters had filled out their ballots, which had been rejected by elections officials earlier this week.

But after reconsidering the ballots, the board’s three members only accepted one, from one of the three voters present at the meeting whose signature two of the members said matched the one on file.

The board members — Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley and Miami-Dade County Court Judges Andrew Hague and Shelley Kravitz — declined to hear from the voters, saying state law requires them to rule on a vote’s validity strictly by comparing the signature on the ballot with the one on file with the elections department.

They also declined to review the affidavits of the other voters, including one from a man who suffered a stroke, Geller said, and couldn’t properly sign his absentee ballot. His wife signed an affidavit saying her husband filled out the ballot, according to Geller.

The board accepted 11 of 17 provisional ballots cast on Election Day in the race, including one from Pedro Rivero, a voter who went to Friday’s meeting to ensure his vote counted.

Rivero said his wife mailed in his absentee ballot before he could sign it. So he went to the polls to vote with a provisional ballot, and was told it would not be counted until Friday. On Thursday, he said he called Barreiro’s commission office to complain and was advised to show up at the canvassing board.

“Maybe because of my vote, he’ll win,” a relieved Rivero said after his provisional ballot was accepted, but before the final results were tallied. The board members said his signature matched the one on file.

“I think that this gentleman has gone out of his way to vote, and that should be honored,” Judge Kravitz said.

Barreiro accepted the results, saying his goal Friday was to make sure as many valid votes as possible were counted. He lamented that the canvassing board did not accept the affidavits or hear testimony from the two voters present at the meeting whose absentee ballots were rejected.

“It’s a shame, when in this country the right to vote is sacred,” he said.

Had Barreiro won the vote by less than half a percent, a county attorney said the results could have gone to an automatic machine recount. State law requires a recount if results within that margin would eliminate a candidate from contention — as Garcia would have been in that scenario.

Commission District 5 stretches from the eastern and southern portions of Miami Beach to Little Havana, the Roads and neighborhoods along the Miami River.

There are two other county commission runoffs in November: District 3 Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents communities from Miami Shores to Overtown, will face Keon Hardemon, an assistant public defender, and former state Rep. Juan C. Zapata will vie for the open District 11 seat in West Miami-Dade against county police officer Manny Machado.

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