Elections

Only 16 votes separate these candidates. A recount will decide who makes the runoff election.

Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, left, emerged from Tuesday’s District 3 commission election 16 votes ahead of Zoraida Barreiro. Whoever survives a Friday recount will go on to run against former Mayor Joe Carollo in the Nov. 21 runoff election.
Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, left, emerged from Tuesday’s District 3 commission election 16 votes ahead of Zoraida Barreiro. Whoever survives a Friday recount will go on to run against former Mayor Joe Carollo in the Nov. 21 runoff election. cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

With only 16 votes the difference between second and third place, two Miami commission candidates are preparing for a Friday morning recount that should determine who faces former Mayor Joe Carollo in a Nov. 21 runoff election.

Alfonso “Alfie” Leon earned a narrow edge over Zoraida Barreiro in Tuesday’s election to choose Miami’s new District 3 commissioner. The unofficial results placed him second in the voting, which usually would put him on the runoff ballot against Carollo. But the margin was so slim that it forced an automatic machine recount, scheduled for Friday morning.

We want to make sure every valid vote is counted.

Robert Fernandez, attorney for the Zoraida Barreiro campaign

The recount was triggered because Leon’s 1,220 votes were less than half a percentage point better than Barreiro’s 1,204 votes, according to the unofficial count. Only 20 percent of voters cast ballots. Both campaigns have hired attorneys to represent them when Miami’s canvassing board meets at 10 a.m.

“We want to make sure every valid vote is counted, period. That’s it,” said Robert Fernandez, an election law attorney hired by the Barreiro campaign. “We’re going to monitor the process to make sure that happens.”

The recount will begin after the canvassing board considers provisional ballots, which an elections department spokesman said numbered 13 around noon Wednesday. Then, a machine recount will rifle through about 6,000 ballots to determine whether and how the count changes. If the margin between Barreiro and Leon drops below a quarter of a percentage point, a hand recount is triggered to review over-votes and under-votes — ballots where too many or too few candidates appear to have been chosen.

The last Miami election that went to a manual recount affirmed that District 118 State Rep. Robert Asencio beat David Rivera by 53 votes last November. That process was completed 10 days after the general election.

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Miami Commission candidate Joe Carollo hugs a supporter at a voting precinct at Robert King High Tower in Miami on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. C.M. GUERRERO cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

“I really don’t know at this point in time who my final opponent is going to be,” said Carollo, who netted 30 percent of the vote and for now has the advantage of being able to campaign and fundraise as the only candidate officially in the runoff election. “Seventeen votes is very narrow and anything could change, either way.”

While they wait to see whether the results of Tuesday’s elections will hold or flip, Leon said he’s campaigning and raising money. Barreiro said she was still talking to voters.

One potential wildcard looms: Some 99 mail-in ballots were discarded Tuesday by the canvassing board. But any contesting of the rejection of the ballots becomes a complicated case-by-case legal issue now that the board has already ruled on the ballots’ validity, according to the campaigns’ attorneys.

“I’ve done several of these. Even when the margin looks razor-thin, normally a recount will yield five to 10 votes per 10 thousand and they break down proportionally,” said J.C. Planas, the Leon campaign attorney. “It’s unlikely you’d find the new votes to overturn.”

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