TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With his margin over Bill Nelson in Florida's U.S. Senate rate narrowing as votes continue to trickle in, Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in the Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward counties. Scott is questioning whether they were trying to inflate the Democratic vote.
"I will not stand idly by as unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida," Scott said.
Scott announced Thursday night that he and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have filed lawsuits against the elections supervisors those counties over ballot counting.
"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties," Scott said.
Scott said there is a "lack of transparency" that "raises concerns." He is demanding access to public records and an emergency hearing as the votes must be reported to the state and the decision made about a recount on Saturday.
"It has been over 48 hours since the polls closed and Broward and Palm Beach counties are still finding and counting ballots," Scott said. "The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the supervisors are failing to give it to us."
Nelson campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin issued a statement saying that all votes should be counted accurately and that Scott's action "appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation."
Marc Elias, a lawyer hired by Nelson, said he expects the margin to narrow further.
"The results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown and I think that you and the elections officials should treat it as such," Elias told reporters on a conference call. "We believe that at the end of this process that Senator Nelson is going to be declared the winner."
One lawsuit alleges Brenda Snipes, the elections supervisor in Broward County, failed to provide information about outstanding ballots that have yet to be tabulated. Scott said Snipes has a history of acting in "absolute bad faith."
A a separate lawsuit was filed against Susan Bucher, the elections supervisor in Palm Beach. It accuses Bucher of keeping the county canvassing board from performing its duties.
"We've all seen the incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again," Scott said. "I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida."
Elections officials in Broward County, where Democrats have a large advantage, were still reviewing ballots Thursday.
Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said she didn't know how many ballots remain to be counted, but all were being processed. She also did not know how many provisional, military and mismarked ballots need to be counted. Her department's website said ballots cast on Election Day have been counted.
President Trump shared his thoughts Thursday evening in a tweet.
Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
Recounts loom over Florida
The Senate race is one of three high profile races in Florida where the vote may be too close to call.
Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, said she didn't know of any other recount in a governor or Senate race in state history.
Florida was mocked for the way it handled the infamous 2000 recount, especially since there was no uniform process then on how to proceed. That has changed, with the Legislature passing a clear procedure on how a recount should be conducted.
Jerry Holland was the supervisor of elections in Duval County for 10 years. He said the 2018 races are so close that a hand recount could be ordered.
"You can go back to 2000 and that's what happened with (Al) Gore and (George W.) Bush," Holland said. "(Gore) had already made the call to Bush and said, 'We gotta wait on this,' and I cant blame any candidate for doing that. The process isn't over until it's over.”
A hand recount is also possible in the Florida governor's race and the agriculture commissioner's race.
There are a series of deadlines state officials must meet to determine the winner of each race:
- Saturday, Nov. 10: Unofficial returns from all counties due by noon. Secretary of state would order recount.
- Thursday, Nov. 15: Machine recount results due to state by 3 p.m. If any race margin is less than one-quarter of 1 percent, hand recount ordered.
- Friday, Nov 16: Overseas, military ballots counted
- Sunday, Nov 18: Results of hand recount due from counties by noon
- Tuesday, Nov 20: Official, final results certified by state