Judge Orders New Miami Mayoral Election
Absentee-ballot fraud voids last November's balloting
MIAMI (AllPolitics, March 4) -- A judge has overturned last fall's election of Xavier Suarez as Miami's mayor because of evidence of absentee ballot fraud.
A new election has been ordered held within 60 days, but it's unclear who will run the city until then.
Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson's decision is the result of last month trial of a lawsuit brought by former Mayor Joe Carollo, who lost to Suarez in a Nov. 13, 1997 runoff election.
"The evidence presented in the case clearly demonstrated fraud and abuse of the absentee ballot laws," the judge wrote.
Wilson said no evidence was presented to indicate that Suarez knew about, or participated in, the fraud.
Carollo claimed that absentee ballots were forged and even paid for by representatives of the Suarez campaign.
"It's a great day for Miami," Carollo said. "We live in a great country and I'm proud to be an American."
But Suarez lawyer Marcos Gonzalez said he was disappointed. "We disagree with the judge's decision," he said. Gonzalez said they have not decided if they will appeal the decision.
It was unclear who would run the city until the new election, but a source close to the case told CNN it was expected the city commission would name an interim mayor.
Suarez told reporters he would accept that decision if the city
attorney said it was the law.
"As far as we're concerned, Suarez is the mayor for the next two months," Gonzalez said.
Carollo lawyer Kendall Coffey told reporters that there was "no basis for anyone other than Joe Carollo to be mayor."
Suarez previously served a term as Miami's mayor 10 years ago.
At an afternoon news conference, Suarez said that he was relieved
the judge found no evidence that he knew about or took part in the alleged fraud.
Suarez promised he would take special steps to make sure all absentee ballots solicited by his campaign are valid. Suarez said he would likely follow his wife's advice that pictures be taken of every absentee voter at the time the ballots are collected.