The Latest: Lawsuit wants Scott banned from role in recount
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the Florida election recount of 2018 (all times local):
Two voter rights groups are suing to prevent Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, from having any role in the general election recount.
Common Cause Florida and the League of Women Voters of Florida filed the federal lawsuit Monday in Tallahassee. The groups are seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to remove Scott from any role in the recount of the 2018 Florida general election.
The groups previously sent Scott a letter urging him to recognize the conflict of interest in overseeing the recount of his own U.S. Senate race. The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond when asked if Scott would recuse himself from the certification but said Scott has previously certified elections when he’s been on the ballot.
Scott, a Republican, holds a slight lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. The margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount under Florida law.
Election officials in a Florida county battered by Hurricane Michael last month allowed about 150 displaced voters to cast ballots by email, even though it’s not allowed under state law.
The Miami Herald reports that Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen defended that decision Monday.
Andersen told the newspaper that parts of the county remained shut off by law enforcement, preventing people from reaching their homes. The displaced voters were allowed to scan and email their ballots to the elections office. Andersen said all the ballots were verified by signature.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle Oct. 10 as a devastating Category 4 storm. On Oct. 18, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order extending early voting and designating more voting locations in the eight counties, including Bay. A statement that accompanied the order specifically prohibited votes being returned by email or fax.
Elections officials say boxes labeled with the words “provisional ballots” that have shown up around Broward County contain offices supplies used on Election Day and are not used to collect actual filled-out ballots.
Broward supervisor of elections attorney Eugene Pettis says the boxes contain office supplies and a red envelope for polling places to use for any provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are cast when someone votes without identification or their eligibility cannot immediately be verified by elections officials.
Pettis says provisional ballots are sealed inside the envelope and sent separately to the supervisor of elections’ office. The box is then loaded with office supplies and dispatched to the same office but does not contain any ballots.
One such box found at an elementary school was opened for reporters. It contained only the office supplies.
Additional boxes were found late Sunday in the back of a returned rental car at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright says deputies transported them back to the proper office.
Lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates have agreed to add three more sheriff’s deputies to monitor the recount of the Florida governor and Senate races at the Broward County election supervisor’s office.
Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter earlier Monday suggested that the sides agree on a suggestion of putting the additional law enforcement officers at the office of Brenda Snipes, where the county’s votes are being counted. He said this would be a measure that could help reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected.
The judge said he’s seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote counting in Broward County and urged lawyers on all sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.”
Lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign were seeking security for the ballots and the machines. Unofficial election results show Scott leading incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by just 0.14 percentage points.
A spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign says the lawyer for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson “seems to be content filing frivolous and laughable lawsuits.”
The Nelson campaign sued the Florida Department of State on Monday in an effort to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before the polls closed Tuesday. Attorney Marc Elias says voters should not be disenfranchised because of mail delivery delays that weren’t their fault.
Unofficial election results show Scott leading Nelson by 0.14 percentage points as a mandatory statewide recount continues.
Scott campaign spokesman Chris Hartline calls the lawsuit “nothing short of a legal white flag of surrender.”
Also Monday, a South Florida judge presiding over an emergency hearing brought by the Scott campaign regarding ballot security during the recount urged lawyers on both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.”
A Florida judge said he’s seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote-counting in Broward County and urged all sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.”
Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said during emergency hearing Monday that there is a need to reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected.
To that point, he urged lawyers for Rick Scott 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.
And the judge says that if anyone any evidence of voter fraud or irregularities, they should report it to law enforcement.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is suing the Florida Department of State in an effort to count vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before polls closed.
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 Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 0.14 percentage points.
As an example, he cited the Miami-Dade County postal facility that was evacuated when because explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats were processed there.
“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.
Gov. Rick Scott wants law enforcement to impound Broward County’s voting machines and ballots when they’re not being used during the Florida recount.
Lawyers for Scott’s Senate campaign were asking Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter on Monday to give custody of all voting machines and ballots to the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement whenever they’re not being used.
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 around the clock. So it’s unclear when any machines or ballots would be “not in use.”
Scott says Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has a history of violating state law during vote-counting.
The recount was triggered because Scott led Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by just 0.14 percentage points.
Mishaps, protests and litigation are overshadowing the vote recount in Florida’s pivotal races for governor and U.S. Senate, recalling the 2000 presidential fiasco in the premier political battleground state.
All 67 counties face a 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 recount is unprecedented even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin margins.