Judge Nixes GOP Poll Watchers At Miami Precincts

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A judge in Florida's Miami-Dade County Friday rejected a Republican political action committee's attempt to place poll watchers inside Miami-Dade's precincts during next Tuesday's general election.

County Circuit Judge Eleanor Schockett's ruling was a victory for local Democrats like former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek who sued to stop the actions of the political action committee known as the "Emergency Campaign To Stop Bill McBride."

McBride is the Democratic candidate for governor trying to unseat Republican incumbent Jeb Bush, the president's brother. The Miami-Dade County elections department had approved the PAC's request to put one observer in 450 of the 553 county polling places.

PAC leader Mark Goodrich said the group wanted to protect the rights of pro-Republican voters. But, attorney Kendall Coffey said Democrats were concerned that the group's presence at polling places would actually ruin chances of fair voting.

Schockett, in her ruling, said the PAC was not a viable organization.

"If you create chaos, no one has personal responsibility. Allowing anyone of their structure to be poll watchers would create chaos," she said.

Local Republicans said they had no knowledge of the PAC. "We're not related. There's no subterfuge here," said attorney Thomas Spencer, who represented the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee. The committee was targeted in the lawsuit, as was the Miami-Dade Elections Department. It was not known if the ruling would be appealed.

Teams of lawyers from the Democratic and Republican national committees as well as civil rights groups plan to monitor Tuesday's elections in Florida, especially after the recount battle over the state's presidential results in 2000 that only ended when the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in.

African-American activists complained two years ago that many voters were prevented from casting ballots and as a result, Republican George W. Bush was able to eke out a narrow victory that allowed him to claim Florida's electoral votes and the presidency.

E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

MRC Store