Politics

Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence

President Donald Trump and Florida’s two highest-ranking Republicans are continuing to push unfounded claims of voter fraud as the state recounts votes to decide closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The president said valid ballots in Florida should be thrown out because “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

Gov. Rick Scott said his Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Bill Nelson, is “clearly trying to commit voter fraud to win this election.”

And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said “Democrat lawyers... are here to change the results of the election and Broward is where they plan to do it.”

There is no evidence of voter fraud in Broward County, according to election monitors from the state’s Division of Elections who have been stationed there since at least Election Day. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not received a request in writing to investigate voter fraud from Scott. And the Florida Department of State said Monday their staff has “not seen any evidence of criminal activity in Broward County at this time. ”

The president suggested Monday that Florida should certify the election based on Election Night vote tallies — even though the state is in the midst of a legally mandated recount. He had previously tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” suggesting that Broward County withheld votes during the 2016 presidential election because they were “getting ready to do a ‘number’” on Trump’s margin of victory in Florida and that Democrats “’found’ many votes” in Broward County to help Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted, while providing no evidence. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

If Florida were to only count votes that were tallied by Election Night, it would be illegal under state law, and would mean that thousands of valid votes from across the state, not just Democratic-controlled Broward and Palm Beach Counties, would not count. Military service members who postmarked their mail-in ballots by Election Day but who also have a 10-day extension for their ballots to be received in every single Florida county would have their votes rendered invalid, according to the president’s logic. None of Florida’s 67 counties have completed their tally of vote-by-mail ballots by overseas service members as of Monday morning.

Scott’s campaign did not immediately respond when asked what evidence they had to back up their claims. Rubio disagreed with Trump’s Monday morning tweet in a tweet of his own and in a statement to the Miami Herald.

“Every vote legally cast & received within timeframe required by law should be counted,” Rubio tweeted. “The issue in has been the repeated violations of election law by & the incompetence & the lack of transparency of Palm Beach Elections and Broward Elections.”

Rubio’s statement means that overseas military voters should have their vote counted and that votes tallied by election departments around the state after Election Night should be counted. Rubio also said he has no problem with the recount moving forward.

Scott is currently leading Nelson by 12,562 votes, a lead large enough that a recount is not likely to change result of the election. Democratic agricultural commissioner nominee Nikki Fried’s 5,326 vote lead over Republican Matt Caldwell is likely safe after a recount, because the three statewide recounts that have flipped the result of an election since 2000 had an average swing of just 311 votes. Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis’ 33,684 lead over Gillum also appears to be large enough for a recount not to flip the result.

On Sunday, Scott appeared on Fox News and claimed without evidence that Nelson is trying to commit fraud in an attempt to win the election.

“Senator Nelson has gone to court to say that fraudulent ballots, fraudulent ballots that were not properly delivered... should be counted,” Scott said. “Senator Nelson is clearly trying to find... to try and commit fraud to try to win this election. That’s all this is.”

When asked by host Chris Wallace if his statement meant that he was accusing Nelson of trying to commit fraud, Scott pivoted to an incident where a lawyer representing Nelson objected in a public hearing to tossing out a provisional ballot cast by a non-citizen. Nelson’s lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, said the lawyer was “not authorized” to make that objection.

Claims of voter fraud by Republicans have been made concurrently with claims that Broward and Palm Beach Counties’ election supervisors are inept. Broward County has not started its machine recount as of 11 a.m. on Monday, even though Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most populous county, began its recount on Saturday afternoon and was halfway done by midday Monday. Palm Beach County, which banned cameras and the media from its canvassing board as they counted votes last week, said it will not be able to meet a Thursday deadline for completing an automatic machine recount. Both counties are controlled by election supervisors who are elected as Democrats, though Scott has the power as governor to remove them from office.

During his Fox interview, Scott was asked why he didn’t remove Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes from office after a judge ruled in May that she illegally destroyed ballots from the 2016 Democratic primary election between U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and challenger Tim Canova. Scott said he was focused on the election. (Republican former Gov. Jeb Bush removed Snipes’ predecessor in 2003 over incompetence claims, and appointed Snipes. Broward County voters have reelected her four times since then.)

“There is no evidence of any fraud in the Florida recount,” Elias tweeted on Monday. “There is undisputed fact that thousands of lawful ballots haven’t yet been counted.”

Miami Herald staff writer Martin Vassolo contributed to this report.

Alex Daugherty, @alextdaugherty, 202-383-6049
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