State Politics

Rick Scott sues Broward, Palm Beach elections supervisors over ballot delays

How does an election recount work?

Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.
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Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.

A visibly frustrated Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday accused “unethical liberals” of trying to steal a U.S. Senate seat from him, as his campaign filed two lawsuits against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher for allegedly refusing to release details on voting tabulations and hindering the processing of absentee ballots, respectively.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott told reporters as he stood outside the Governor’s Mansion.

Before the lawsuit was filed Thursday, Snipes said her office has counted every vote cast in the general election in Broward except for provisional and military ballots from overseas. She said the canvassing board will finish reviewing about 250 provisional ballots on Friday and has 10 days from the election to count the military votes.

Snipes said all of Broward’s votes through Thursday were updated on the county’s website but not on the state’s, saying she did not know why those additions had not been reflected yet on Florida Division of Elections’ page.

Snipes’ office, along with 66 other county elections offices, have until noon Saturday to submit final voting results to the secretary of state.

Scott took the unusual step of delivering a partisan political attack from his taxpayer-funded residence, which is usually reserved for official state events.

The governor’s lead over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has steadily eroded in the two days since Scott declared victory on Tuesday night, and he asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

“Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding votes until the election turns out the way they want,” Scott said.

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Broward County lags the rest of the state in completing the first, crucial phases of counting ballots from Tuesday’s midterm election. As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the same time the governor summoned reporters to the mansion, Broward County was the only one of the state’s 67 counties that had not reported to the state that it had completed its tabulation of early votes. Early voting ended Sunday in Broward.

Just before 8 p.m., Broward County’s elections website was updated to indicate it had completed its count of mail votes, but that was not reflected on the state’s website. Palm Beach County was also shown on the state website as not having completed its count of mail voting.

“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the supervisors are failing to give it to us,” said Scott, who was himself sued multiple times for violating public records and Sunshine laws while governor.

Scott called out both Snipes and Bucher, and each was named in separate complaints filed Thursday night. Scott refused to take questions from reporters who had been summoned for his remarks.

Scott claimed “left-wing activists have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere.”

Scott’s first suit, claiming Snipes has violated public records laws by not complying with his campaign’s requests for voter and ballot information, was filed in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale. Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee requested an emergency hearing.

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The second suit, naming Bucher, asserted that the Palm Beach County supervisor’s office refused to allow party representatives “ to properly witness Defendant’s processing and duplication of physically damaged absentee ballots,” an alleged violation of state law, and that the elections office “failed to allow the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board to execute its statutory duty to determine ‘all valid votes’ from ‘overvoted’ and ‘undervoted’ absentee ballots.”

Meanwhile, three statewide races — including Scott’s own against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — hang in the balance. Scott held a narrow .18 percent margin over Nelson, 15,092 votes. The gap narrowed by about 6,800 votes Thursday as results trickled in from around the state, including Broward.

In the governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, the margin shrank from .52 percent to .44 percent Thursday, putting it in the range for an automatic machine recount. DeSantis’ lead was 36,223 votes but that was down about 6,700 from Thursday morning.

And in the most significant swing, the race for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services swung completely. The day started with Democrat Nikki Fried trailing Matt Caldwell by about 4,000 votes but by the time the governor started speaking to the media, Fried was ahead by about 2,900 votes, .04 percent.

Incoming Speaker of the Florida House Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, released a statement late Thursday night supporting Scott’s directive for an FDLE investigation.

“As the other 65 counties know too well, this is not the first time Palm Beach and Broward counties have failed its citizens — but it should be the last,” he wrote. “The power of the vote is only as strong as the trust in the count. With each new ballot ‘found’ that trust erodes.”

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