- a citizen's eye on political corruption

Back to summary

Seminole Case details

(***SEE Summary - Update - Background - Legal docs on case)

The Seminole case (# 00-2816, download complaint filing) and Martin case trials have concluded in Leon County circuit court in Tallahassee with rulings for the defense sustained upon appeal.  (The case concerns 2,100 incomplete GOP absentee ballot requests that were selectively fixed by GOP workers invited into election offices by the GOP elections supervisor while similar Democratic absentee ballot requests were rejected; see background.)

Facts of the case, admitted or not contested by Goard:

  • At the invitation of Seminole elections supervisor Sandra Goard, two GOP operatives camped out in elections offices for 15 days, unsupervised, with access to files and a computer terminal.1 

  • Goard's staff separated out incomplete GOP absentee ballot requests from similar incomplete Democratic and independent absentee ballot requests.2 

  • GOP operatives added voter identification numbers to 2,132 absentee ballot requests that yielded 1,936 actual votes, 95% for Bush.3 

  • More than 550 similar Democratic ballot requests with missing information ended up in a discard box, rejected.4 

  • Goard told two Democratic campaign workers5 and stated in a radio interview broadcast while GOP workers were filling in voter IDs6 that she would honor no absentee ballot requests that were missing this ID number.  She "emphasized that this was required by Florida state law."7 

  • Goard continued this GOP ballot request-fixing activity after receiving a complaint from a local Democratic official at the end of October.8 

  • Goard admitted she had never before allowed such activity to fix incomplete absentee ballot requests in her 23 years as county elections supervisor.9 

  • Absentee ballots cast in Seminole split 2-to-1 for Bush,10 as did those in Martin County where similar selective completion of GOP absentee ballot requests occurred11 (Bush won 56% of the total vote in both counties12).  Absentee ballots had also split 2-1 for Miami Mayor Xavier Saurez, ousted by a Florida court in 1998 for widespread absentee ballot fraud.13 

Misconduct committed:

  • Under Florida law, the voter making the absentee ballot request, a family member or guardian must complete the voter identification number.14 

  • Altering an absentee ballot request is a third-degree felony in Florida.15 

  • Over the objection of her attorney, Goard admitted allowing the GOP to fix incomplete GOP ballot requests "without any provision of the statute that says they could do so."16 

  • GOP and Democratic requests were separated: GOP requests fixed, Democratic requests rejected.17 

  • Many of the numbers entered by Leach on GOP requests were incorrect, but Goard instructed her staff to process all of Leach's forms without checking the numbers; in contrast, numbers were carefully checked for every other absentee ballot request (see details).

  • GOP operatives were allowed unsupervised access to election files and computers for 15 days,18 compromising the integrity of election records. 

Remedy mandated by the law:

  • USA Today: "Florida law says all the county's absentee ballots must be voided" if any are tainted.19 

  • CNN: "Under Florida law, if absentee ballots have a problem with them, you have got to throw [out] all of the ballots, even if the applications have a problem."20 

  • Precedent under Florida law: Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeals overturned the 1997 election of Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez for absentee ballot fraud; all 5,000 absentee ballots were disqualified based upon 400 identified fraudulent ballots21 (see ruling).

  • Precedent under federal law: U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, in the 1994 the case of Roe v. Alabama, overturned the election of the Alabama state supreme court justice by disqualifying absentee ballots that were accepted in one county with missing witness signatures22 (see ruling).

Legal documents

  • The Seminole County lawsuit (download as pdf document).

  • The Martin County lawsuit (download as pdf document).

  • Leon County court website providing several documents related to the Seminole and Martin cases.

  • A summary of findings of plaintiff's expert witness James C. Erlandson (download as pdf document).

  • Florida 3rd District Court of appeals 1998 ruling in the Suarez case.

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, 1994 ruling in Roe v. Alabama.

Background of key figures suggestive of broader election fraud:

  • Xavier Suarez, ousted as Miami Mayor in 1998 in a notorious case of absentee ballot fraud:1) was elected to the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade GOP party last September;23 and 2) admitted that he "helped fill out absentee ballot forms" for this past November 7 election24 (see details below).

  • Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida and brother of presidential candidate George W. Bush: 1) successfully lobbied for a Mob-linked HMO, enabling subsequent massive Medicare fraud,25 and 2) defaulted on an irregular $4.5 million S&L loan that had been arranged through a front with no repayment schedule specified.26  

Details on the 2000 election involvement of Suarez.  Ousted Miami Mayor Suarez made a stunning admission November 8th to interviewer Evan Shapiro of FEED Magazine.  Suarez said that he “helped fill out absentee ballot forms and enlist Republican absentee voters in Miami-Dade County” for the 2000 presidential election.27  

“Dade County Republicans have a very specific expertise in getting out absentee ballots,” Suarez told Shapiro. “I obviously have specific experience in this myself.”28  Kendall Coffey, a lead attorney in the Suarez election misconduct case, found Suarez’s statements deeply troubling given his past “systematic and massive absentee ballot fraud.”29 

1. AP 12/1/2000; Orlando Sentinel 12/1/2000, p. A19; NY Times, 11/26/2000, p. 38.

2. Washington Post, 12/1/2000, p. A25; LA Times, 11/28/2000, p. A1.

3. LA Times, 12/2/2000, p. A20; Orlando Sentinel 12/1/2000, p. A19; AP 12/1/2000; Palm Beach Post 12/1/2000.

4. LA Times, 12/2/2000, p. A20; NY Times, 11/14/2000; NY Times, 11/21/2000.

5. Affidavits of W. Patrick Westerfield and Steve Hall.

6. US Newswire 12/3/2000..

7. Affidavits of W. Patrick Westerfield and Steve Hall.

8. NY Times 11/13/2000, p. 19; Washington Post, 12/1/2000, p. A25.

9. Wall Street Journal, 11/27/2000, p. A22.

10. NY Times, 11/21/2000

11. New York Times, 11/29/2000, p. 26.

12. Ibid.; NY Times 11/13/2000, p. 19.

13. LA Times, 11/13/1997, p. A5.

14. NY Times, 12/2/2000, p. 9; Florida Division of Elections, advisory DE 98-14, 9/16/1998.

15. LA Times, 12/2/2000, p. A20.

16. LA Times, 11/28/2000, p. A1.

17. See above.

18. AP 12/1/2000; Orlando Sentinel 12/1/2000, p. A19; NY Times, 11/26/2000, p. 38.

19. USA Today, 11/29/2000, p. 4A.

20. CNN 11/30/2000.

21. LA Times, 11/13/1997, p. A5; LA Times 3/5/1998, p. A11; LA Times 11/21/2000, p. A16; Charleston Gazette, 11/11/2000, p. 4A; Chicago Tribute, 11/13/2000, p. 8.

22. Wall Street Journal, 11/27/2000, p. A22.

23. Miami Herald, 9/14/2000, p. 3.

24. FEED, 11/8/2000..

25. Wall Street Journal, 8/9/1988, p. A1.

26. Washington Post, 10/15/1990, p. A24.

27. FEED, 11/8/2000.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid.