Florida Governor Rick Scott appeared to have won his race to replace incumbent Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate. He gave a big victory speech on Tuesday night. President Trump even called to congratulate him. But Nelson knew not to concede. The race was close, there were still votes to be counted and, in Florida, an automatic recount is triggered if the margin of victory is half a percentage point or less. As provisional, absentee and otherwise unaccounted for votes have been tallied over the past few days, the race has indeed moved into recount territory, with Nelson now reportedly trailing Scott by just over 15,000 votes, or around .18 percent, a small enough margin to ensure the recount is done by hand. Scott is not happy, and on Thursday night he called reporters to the Governor’s Mansion to announce he is suing the left-leaning counties responsible.
“I will not stand idly by as unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said while wondering how so many additional votes were found after Tuesday’s election. “The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency and the supervisors are failing to give it to us. Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties.”
In addition to filling a lawsuit, which names both Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, Scott called for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the post-election ballot counts. A spokesman for the FDLE confirmed to The Hill that the department plans to investigate Snipes and Bucher as requested by Scott. “He owns FDLE,” Snipes said when asked to comment, referring to Scott. Snipes was appointed to supervise Broward County’s elections in 2003 by Republican Governor Jeb Bush, and has since been reelected to the position four times. Her performance has been sharply criticized, however, and in May a judge ruled that she had illegally destroyed votes during the 2016 election.
President Trump is hot on the case, as well. “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach,” he tweeted Thursday night. “Florida voted for Rick Scott!”
On Friday, he joked that the Russians are to blame and wrote that he is sending lawyers to Florida to “expose the FRAUD!”
Scott on Thursday night singled out Marc Elias, the lawyer Nelson hired after the election, as complicit in the alleged scheme to “steal” the election. “Senator Nelson hired one of Hillary Clinton’s lawyers from D.C., and one of the first things he did was tell reporters that he is here to win the election,” Scott said. “He does not say that he wants a full and fair election, or even an accurate vote count.” Scott went on to read off a list of what he believes to be questionable comments the lawyer has made in the past.
On a conference call Thursday morning, Elias said he doesn’t know how many more ballots still need to be counted in Broward County, but that he’s confident in his client’s chances once the recount concludes on Saturday. “The results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown and I think that you and the elections officials should treat it as such,” he said. “We believe that at the end of this process that Senator Nelson is going to be declared the winner.”
Nelson has accused Scott’s lawsuit as being “politically motivated” and “borne out of desperation.”
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Though it may be inconvenient for Scott that there are still votes left to be counted in two Democratic counties, there’s no actual evidence that anything untoward is taking place. Broward County and Palm Beach County have only required additional time to identify and tabulate previously unaccounted for ballots. Similar post-election counts have unfolded in other tight races across the nation. On Thursday, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema moved in front of Republican Martha McSally in the U.S. Senate race in Arizona, and several House seats are still undecided as outstanding votes are tallied. Florida has long been a lightning rod for election controversy, though, and this year is no exception. Especially in Broward County, which was also at the center of the 2000 presidential recount, questions have arisen about ballot design, undervotes in the Senate race and, apparently, ballot boxes lying around in elementary schools.
Though Nelson and his team are confident he’ll be able to prevail, it looks like he’s still going to have to make up around 15,000 votes when the recount takes place on Saturday. This is going to be tough, regardless of whether Scott’s lawsuit holds water. The state’s gubernatorial race also looks to be headed for a recount, and the prospect of Democrat Andrew Gillum overtaking Republican Ron DeSantis appears even slimmer. But Scott and Republicans want to lock in Tuesday night’s results, while Democrats just want every vote to be counted, which seems reasonable. It’s the tenet upon which the United States was founded, after all.
“Mr. @FLGovScott — counting votes isn’t partisan — it’s democracy,” Gillum tweeted after Scott announced his lawsuit Thursday night. “Count every vote.”
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