Richard Jarolem, attorney for Loxahatchee Groves Town Council candidate Keith Harris, has filed a lawsuit contesting the March 10 election that Harris lost to Councilman Ryan Liang by nine votes.
The lawsuit, against members of the town’s election canvassing board, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and Liang himself, alleges that Liang won the election by absentee ballots that had been fraudulently obtained and turned in to the Supervisor of Elections Office.
Jarolem has also sent letters to the town and to Gov. Rick Scott protesting the election.
The lawsuit allegations include that Liang’s finance manager, his mother, Philomena Liang (aka Philomena Liu), and Councilman Jim Rockett had obtained and used absentee ballots fraudulently.
It also charges that Rockett, who, as a councilman not running for re-election, was also a member of the election canvassing board along with Mayor Dave Browning, Councilman Tom Goltzené and Town Clerk Janet Whipple, and had endorsed Liang although he had not disclosed that.
“Mr. Rockett’s endorsement was made and listed on Ryan’s web site,” the complaint states. “In addition, and on many occasions, Mr. Rockett would accompany Ms. Liang (the candidate’s mother) to promote the candidacy of Ryan.”
The complaint goes on to state that a complaint was filed by resident and attorney William Ford with the Supervisor of Elections Office that he and his wife received absentee ballots for the election that they had not requested, that Ford was approached by Ms. Liang and Rockett on March 7, and that Ford had told them that he intended to vote in person.
According to the complaint, Ford reported the activity to Bucher’s office, where he was told that an electronic request had been made by someone other than them, whereupon the elections supervisor forwarded the report to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies and an investigation is ongoing.
The number of unauthorized absentee ballots is believed to exceed 100, Jarolem alleged, and an investigation by Harris has revealed at least 12 additional voters who received absentee ballots that they did not request.
In addition, Harris became aware that resident Todd McLendon allegedly witnessed Rockett delivering what he believed were numerous completed absentee ballots to the Supervisor of Elections Office on March 9. The complaint includes exhibits of still photos that allegedly show Rockett delivering absentee ballots to the office.
Harris also discovered that in the past two elections, the requests for absentee ballots were less than 50 and 100, respectively, but for this March’s election, there were more than 300 requests, according to the complaint.
In the first unofficial tabulations for the March 10 election released at 7:01 p.m., the absentee ballots count showed 24 votes for Harris and 61 votes for Ryan Liang, a 37-vote lead for Liang. The final count was 266 votes for Harris and 275 votes for Liang, a difference of nine votes.
“In analyzing the voting, Harris won the live, in-person vote by 28,” the complaint states. “The difference in this election was the absentee ballots.”
During the canvassing board meeting, Liang’s attorney, John Whittles, said the essence of a lawsuit would be whether the outcome of the election would have been different.
“There are a lot of [allegations] that we are going to deal with through the course of the litigation process,” Whittles said. “The whole point that will have to be determined by a judge or jury is whether or not the election outcome would have been any different.”
Jarolem also sent a letter to Gov. Scott asking for assistance from his office.
“The known facts of this election are appalling, and it appears that several illegal acts may have taken place in connection with this election,” he wrote.
His letter points out that a Supervisor of Elections online form must be completed by anyone requesting an absentee ballot, which includes the date of birth of the voter, the voter ID number, the voter’s e-mail and daytime phone number, information that is not readily available to anyone other than that person. “The form clearly states that the request must come from the voter and/or immediate family,” he wrote.
In addition to procurement of the ballots, there is a second issue concerning the collection of the ballots, Jarolem wrote, pointing out that state statutes only permit a person to collect no more than two ballots in any given election, and that the two voters must designate the collector in writing.
“If Ms. Liang and/or Mr. Rockett collected more than two ballots each, both individuals would have violated that statute,” he wrote. “This is another serious problem.”
ABOVE: Keith Harris.