SD 37 camps trade barbs over ballot tampering accusations amid impending recount
Ileana Garcia, Jose Javier Rodriguez

The margin in the race currently sits at just 18 votes out of 215,431 cast.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC) is accusing Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez supporters of ballot tampering as the Senate District 37 race seems almost assured to head to a recount.

No reports of such fraud had reached the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office, a spokesperson said in a statement late Thursday.

The latest update from the Supervisor’s office shows Republican candidate Ileana Garcia ahead of Rodríguez by just 18 votes out of 215,431 cast. Garcia leads Rodríguez 48.53%-48.52%, well within the 0.5 percentage point window to trigger an automatic recount.

The county still allows voters who submitted ballots by mail to “cure” any signature issues. Ballots with signature mismatches are disqualified.

That curing process is at the heart of the FRSCC’s claims Thursday.

“The Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections provided our attorney a list of the voters eligible to complete this process,” read a statement from the FRCC.

“While contacting these voters to inform them of their ballot status and their right to remedy their signature issue, voters have told our staff that representatives of the Republican Party had already visited them and taken their signed affidavits. Neither the Republican Party nor representatives of the Ileana Garcia campaign had contacted these voters prior to this.”

The statement goes on to directly accuse Democrats of foul play.

“Only one person would benefit from this scurrilous and criminal tactic to alter the outcome of this election,” hinting at the incumbent Senator. “It is unconscionable that anyone would stoop to such cheap tactics in an attempt to steal this election.”

The statement goes on to accuse Rodríguez and Democratic Party allies of “fraudulent behavior.”

Late Thursday, the Miami-Dade SOE office issued a statement saying, “The Elections Department is not aware of any issue.”

The statement also directed voters to the online webpage to submit an election fraud complaint if such a complaint is justified.

The Senator’s team is already pushing back on Senate Republicans’ claims in a statement.

“These baseless allegations only reaffirm that when Republicans know they are losing they resort to scare tactics and voter intimidation,” said Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser to Rodríguez.

Ulvert then blasted Senate Republicans, asserting the theme of pushing the candidacy of non-party affiliated candidate Alex Rodriguez, who courted just under 3% of the vote in a razor-thin race.

“The only time votes were suppressed in this campaign was when senate Republicans used dark money to fund an NPA candidate to purposely confuse voters. This accusation is a lie and is clearly an attempt to discourage voters from completing the cure process because once all the ballots have been counted, Sen. Rodríguez will be heading back to Tallahassee to fight for the people of District 37.”

Ulvert has pushed for the vote counting process to continue ever since Tuesday night, when results showed the race was tight.

The district spans portions of Miami-Dade County, including Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest. The incumbent was favored in the contest, but Garcia rode a wave of GOP support in Miami-Dade Tuesday night to put this seat in play for Republicans.

Sen. Rodríguez flipped the seat blue in 2016 by about 3 percentage points — or fewer than 6,000 votes. Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz De la Portilla represented the district before that contest.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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