Nikki Fried's campaign finance chairman couldn't vote for her. 'I'm mortified.' – South Florida Sun Sentinel


Mitchell Berger, the prominent Fort Lauderdale lawyer who served as campaign finance chairman for Nikki Fried’s gubernatorial campaign, wasn’t able to vote for her in Tuesday’s primary.
“I’m mortified,” he said Friday.
Berger has been a registered Democrat since 1974, and he’s been heavily involved in political campaigns, candidate fundraising, and government for decades. And he’s intimately familiar with election law.
RELATED: Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried proclaim Democrats are unified in quest to unseat Ron DeSantis ]
He was one of two people with leadership roles in her campaign that she cited Tuesday night in her concession speech after the results showed she lost to Charlie Crist.
When Berger went to vote on Tuesday, he was listed as a no-party-affiliation voter. Florida has closed primaries, which means only voters registered in a political party can vote in its primary contests.
That’s the reason why Fried’s own father, whom she repeatedly described on the campaign trail as a die-hard Republican, wasn’t able to vote for her on Tuesday. He could only have done so if he’d switched to the Democratic Party for this year’s primary, then switched back to Republican.
Their votes didn’t end up making a difference in the outcome of the primary. Crist defeated Fried by 369,738 votes, 59.7% to 35.3%.
Mitchell Berger, center, was among the supporters of gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried listening to her concede the primary to Charlie Crist on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale. Berger was Fried’s campaign finance chairman, but he ended up unable to vote for her in the primary. (Marta lavandier/AP)
When Berger discovered at his Fort Lauderdale polling place that he was listed as an NPA voter, he immediately signed a form to return his status to registered Democrat. But unlike states that allow same-day voter registration, Florida requires changes no later than 29 days before an election, so it was too late for Berger to vote in Tuesday’s primary.
He cast a provisional ballot, which voters get if there’s an issue at the polling place. Berger appeared Thursday before the Broward elections Canvassing Board to explain what happened.
(He is exceedingly familiar with canvassing boards. Berger was among the attorneys who represented former Vice President Al Gore in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election in which Gore lost Florida by 538 votes, and consequently the election, to George W. Bush.)
RELATED: Charlie Crist wins Democratic primary, easily defeating Nikki Fried for nomination to take on Ron DeSantis ]
Broward Mayor Michael Udine, a member of the three-member Canvassing Board, said the panel unanimously rejected Berger’s ballot.
“Unfortunately, based on state law, we had to reject his ballot,” Udine said. “He was pleading his case, but he knows what the law is on that. He knew what was going to happen.”
In a telephone interview Friday in which he explained what happened, Berger said he knew that would be the ultimate outcome, but said he went before the Canvassing Board and was discussing what happened so the same thing wouldn’t happen to others.
“I went down to call attention to it,” he said. “I’m upset with myself, obviously. I’m mortified. I’m not upset with my assistant. I think this could happen to anyone.”
Berger said he was told by Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott the same thing has happened to others.
In mid-June, Berger was in New Hampshire helping an older relative who was sick, and his wallet was either lost or stolen. Because he was traveling, he needed a driver license.
RELATED: Fort Lauderdale fundraiser signs on as Nikki Fried campaign finance chair. He used to raise money for Charlie Crist. ]
So Berger, founder and co-chairman of the Berger-Singerman law firm asked his secretary to help him get a new driver’s license. Completing the form, his secretary inadvertently checked the box saying Berger wished to register to vote, then went on to complete the rest of the driver’s license form online and submitted it.
However, checking the box to register without going to a page and completing another form with party preference, meant he was by default registered as a no-party-affiliation voter.
Udine said that’s his understanding of what happened. “Apparently they didn’t complete the whole thing,” he said. “If you don’t select which political party, they automatically switch you to NPA.
Berger is a longtime, close associate of Gore and raises money for presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates, among others. His decision to support Fried five months ago was a notable development in the campaign. In the past, Berger had supported Crist; the first fundraiser Crist held for his 2014 campaign for governor took place at Berger’s Fort Lauderdale home, and brought in about $500,000.
Mitchell Berger, major Democratic fundraiser from Fort Lauderdale, who was @NikkiFried's campaign finance chair after years as a prominent @CharlieCrist supporter, on Crist primary victory: "There's a lot of built up residue of support and he's worked hard for all these years."
Like many people, Berger didn’t see the new voter information card mailed by the Broward Supervisor of Elections that would have shown his registration as no-party-affiliation. As a result, he didn’t discover what had happened until he showed up to vote on Tuesday, and then unraveled what happened.
Berger said he “could have let it die and be less mortified” by not going to the Canvassing Board and calling attention to what happened. “I felt that because I’ve been involved in these issues my whole life that this was just another glitch in the system that someone ought to pay attention to.”
Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @browardpolitics
Copyright © 2022, Sun Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Sun Sentinel


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