2 of 3 ballot scanners down in Duval; Broward judge finds no fraud

Sen. Nelson calls on Gov. Scott to recuse himself from 'any role' in recount

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two of three high-speed scanners being used to recount more than 380,000 Duval County ballots went down Monday, Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said. He said more than 15,000 ballots from early voting will have to be recounted again.

While one of the machines was fixed and returned to service, Hogan said, "We lost three hours, maybe four in time and tabulating."

It was one of several developments around the state Monday in the high-profile and closely watched recount of Florida's U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner races.

Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter held an emergency hearing on a motion by Gov. Rick Scott asking that Broward County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement take custody of voting machines and ballots whenever they're not being used for counting.

The recount is already secured by police outside and deputies inside, with both parties and campaigns monitoring the entire process. Once calibration tests are completed on the ballot scanning machines, vote-counting will continue round the clock. So it's unclear when any machines or ballots would be "not in use."

Tuter urged lawyers for Scott -- the Republican who claimed victory last Tuesday night in his race to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson -- and others representing the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates, as well as the Broward County elections office to agree on some minor additions in security, including the addition of three more law enforcement officers to keep an eye on things.

Tuter said he's seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote-counting and urged all sides to "ramp down the rhetoric." He also said there is a need to reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected.

And the judge says that if anyone who has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities, they should report it to law enforcement.

Nelson calls on Scott to recuse himself from 'any role' in recount

Saying Scott is “using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process” and that his recent actions make clear that he “cannot oversee this process in a fair and impartial way," Nelson called on Scott to recuse himself from the process.

"[Rick Scott] should remove himself from any role in the recount process so the people can have confidence in the integrity of the election,” Nelson said in a video statement released Monday by his campaign. “Given his efforts to undermine the votes of Floridians, this is the only way that we can ensure that the people’s votes are protected."

Nelson's campaign also filed a new federal lawsuit, asking that the Florida Department of State allow vote-by-mail ballots postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before polls closed be counted.

As an example, Nelson cited the Miami-Dade County postal facility that was evacuated because explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats were processed there.

Nelson's attorney, Marc Elias, filed the lawsuit Monday, saying voters should not be disenfranchised because of mail delivery delays that aren't their fault. Unofficial election results show Nelson trailing Scott by 0.14 percentage points.

"Florida's 7 p.m. Election Day receipt deadline for vote by mail ballots burdens the right to vote of eligible voters," the suit said.

Elias wants all ballots postmarked before Nov. 6 to be counted if they are received within 10 days of the election.

More counties begin the recount

All 67 counties face a 3 p.m. Thursday deadline to complete recounts. Half began last weekend amid early drama focused on Broward and Palm Beach counties, home to large concentrations of Democratic voters.

The recount was ordered Saturday after unofficial results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leading Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points for governor. Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was 0.14 percentage points for the Senate.

The recounting process began Monday in St. Johns and Baker counties. Putnam County will begin its recount Tuesday and Clay County on Wednesday.

Nassau County’s Supervisor of Elections website reports it is done with the recount. 

Nearly 132,000 St. Johns County ballots were being rescanned. Even though it was a holiday, the elections office was fully staffed to make sure everything went smoothly.

"Once we finished our machine and recount, we do a second set of unofficial results.  We certified the results to the state and then we wait," St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes said.

As in all counties, observers from both parties were on hand to make sure the process is fair.

"The professionalism is clear. Everything is going as it should be going," said Brent Johnson an attorney for the Democratic Party.

"I just want every legal vote to count," Republican observer Mary Robbie said.

Chris Chambless, the supervisor of elections in Clay County, said rather than use high-speed scanners, 60 volunteers will be brought in to feed the ballots into the same machines that were used at the precincts on Election Day.

"The law does not require to utilize that specific machine," Chambless said. "We feel (the precinct scanners) give the most accurate result in that recount. But we could run all of the ballots in the high-speed tabulator." 

Chambless said they hope to recount Clay County's 94,000 ballots in 12 to 14 hours.

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