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S. Miami election error leads to challenge   (FL)
JONNELLE MARTE   Miami Herald    27 Februrary 2008

A candidate in a South Miami commission race decided by just 24 votes has filed a legal challenge.

At issue: The Miami-Dade Elections Department has found that 53 South Miami voters mistakenly received postcards from the department telling them they were ineligible to vote in the Feb. 12 municipal election.

Rene Guim, who lost by two dozen votes to incumbent commissioner Velma Palmer, filed a law suit to contest the election results Friday afternoon.

''We're not pointing a finger that said someone did this deliberately, but obviously a mistake was made that very likely altered the outcome of the election so it has to be fixed and the way to fix it is to have this election redone,'' said Joseph Geller, Guim's attorney.

The Elections Department announced the discrepancy earlier Friday.

The postcards were sent out five days before the Feb. 12 election to 2,867 voters after the department erroneously sent out a first notice to residents of unincorporated Miami-Dade, reminding them to show up to South Miami City Hall to vote.

After receiving an inquiry from The Miami Herald, Supervisor of Elections Lester Sola asked his staff to review the list of voters. The confusion was seen in areas of South Miami where there are pockets of neighborhoods that are unincorporated. The patchwork in city boundaries goes back about 50 years, when property owners were allowed to pull out of the city, said City Clerk Maria Menendez.

Some of the 53 voters the elections department discovered had been registered as unincorporated residents since as far back as 2002, Sola said. Their records were d and they will be receiving new voter registration cards.

According to Sola, one voter who was misidentified as an unincorporated resident in their records showed up to vote on election day and was almost turned away, but after some research he was confirmed as a South Miami resident and allowed to vote. Sola said the department took steps after that incident to make sure no other South Miami voters were mistakenly turned away from the polls.

''Regardless of whether you got a notice or not, you know if you live in the city of South Miami or not,'' Sola said. ``Anyone else who came in, as soon as they would show up as an unincorporated voter, we checked the address to see if they lived in South Miami.

``We feel very comfortable that everyone who showed up to vote was able to vote.''

Guim said the findings of the elections department still revealed a substantial impact on the election.

''The elections department, the people who are supposed to be making absolutely sure that the election is fair and that everything is accurate, they are the ones who made the mistake,'' Guim said. ``When you have races that were determined by 24 votes, even if 25 people were told not to vote, that's significant.''


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