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November 20, 2018

Florida Senate president urges "civility" and a rejection of ugly national discourse

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Senate President Joe Negron shakes hands with Sen. Bill Galvano during the first day of the 2017 legislative session. The two senators are leading supporters of a 2018 bill that boosts higher education, including restoring the Bright Futures scholarship to its original levels. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

The next leader of the Florida Senate rejected the sharp political discourse that dominates America's politics, telling his fellow senators today that the chamber will be an "example" to other states and governments over the next two years.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who took over for Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Tuesday, encouraged both sides to come together after a "vigorously fought" election cycle.

"As Senate President, I have very little ability to change the national discourse, or to stem the tide of modern-day incivility that is so pervasive in an era of social media and 24-hour news cycle," he said,  "But I can tell you as Senate president, and while I’m Senate president, that the Florida Senate will have civility, transparency, candor, and provide opportunity."

He added that the actions of his fellow senators "stand in stark contrast to much of the dialogue we are witnessing today, not just in the political process, but really, in all areas of society."

Galvano, a soft-spoken moderate who has spent 16 years in the Legislature, earned praise last year for leading the Parkland school safety bill through the Senate last year.

It was a largely bipartisan bill that included some of the first gun restrictions in Florida in decades, earning him the ire of the National Rifle Association and a $200,000 check to his political committee from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

"Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano calls himself a Republican but is rumored to be the one who colluded with anti-gun Democrats to engineer the gun control package," NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer wrote in September.

Tuesday's swearing in, with Governor-elect Ron DeSantis watching, kicked off the start of the 2019 legislative session. Over the next few months, lawmakers will begin pitching bills until March 5, when the official two-month sprint in the legislature begins.

Galvano said he couldn't predict what lawmakers would be facing next year, but he encouraged his colleagues to "think innovatively." He said that he looked forward to implementing the many constitutional amendments that were passed this year.

"Together, we can be the example for other states and world governments, as to how to focus on policy, not politics, service, not severance," he said.

His message of unity earned praise from the Democratic minority leader, Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

"You have always been a measured thinker, very receptive to ideas, and very thoughtful and willing to listen," Gibson said.

After weeks of recounts and lawsuits, Florida's midterm results are now certified.

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A Republican observer looks at a ballot during a hand recount, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla. Florida's acrimonious U.S. Senate contest is headed to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by fewer than 13,000 votes. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) FLWL102

After two weeks of machine and manual recounts, lawsuits, accusations of "rampant fraud" and near-nonstop controversy, Florida's midterm election ended Tuesday morning with little fanfare.

With nearly a dozen cameras watching, the state's Elections Canvassing Commission signed off on the election results in a ceremony that lasted barely five minutes.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, who was filling in for Gov. Rick Scott, gave a smile and a thumbs-up to the cameras after signing the results.

"The voters can be assured that the results that we just certified reflect the intent of the voters in this election," Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. "Everyone we certified as winners were the winners in these elections."

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the other two members of the commission, certified the results over the phone. Bondi apparently could have appeared in person — she was on the Senate floor of the Capitol just a few minutes later.

In normal years, the canvassing commission is hardly notable. It meets after every general election to certify the results of each federal, state and multi-county race.

Scott, a Republican, recused himself from the commission after denouncing heavily-Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties for committing "rampant fraud." That prompted President Donald Trump to repeatedly claim voter fraud in the election.

"I have not personally been presented with evidence of fraud," Bradley said when asked whether Scott's claims were true.

He said that voters should vote out the elections supervisors in Palm Beach, Broward and Hillsborough counties, however.

"The voters need to hold those officials accountable," Bradley said.

November 19, 2018

Caldwell concedes, blames Broward’s ‘abject failures’ for loss

Florida Republicans(2)

Florida's last statewide race to be called is over.

After grueling machine and manual recounts for the razor-thin race, Nicole "Nikki" Fried emerged victorious in the contest to replace term-limited Adam Putnam by just 6,753 votes — a margin of .08 percent.

Her opponent, state Rep. Matt Caldwell conceded in a letter to voters and a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner Monday afternoon. 

Caldwell was ahead of Fried by about half of one percent on election night, which triggered a state law requiring two recounts: one by machine, one by hand. 

He writes that his loss was a result of the "abject failures" in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and that he would not pursue further legal action. 

Caldwell filed a lawsuit in Broward County earlier last week, asking the court to determine if Brenda Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections, “illegally included ballots after polls closed” Nov. 6. His campaign also filed a public-records request for vote counts and emails among Snipes, her team, and any third parties regarding ballot-counting.

Snipes misplaced more than 2,000 ballots and Palm Beach County's supervisor, Susan Bucher, said technical problems and understaffing meant their recount may not be finished until Christmas. Snipes' staff missed the state deadline to turn in machine recount numbers, and Bucher's never submitted them at all. 

On Saturday, Caldwell filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in Broward to mandate the county to submit machine recount results to the state, which would give Republicans a net increase.

That petition was denied, according to Broward County attorney Andrew Meyers.

"It has become clear that we may never gain an understanding of what transpired in the hours and days after polls closed, despite the exhaustive efforts of my legal team to get to the truth," Caldwell said. 

Caldwell, an eight-year veteran of the House, said he is proud of his time in the public eye and has offered to assist Fried in any way he can. 

"I hope to see Florida continue to prosper and pursue the proper balance between all of the things that make this state great."

In a separate letter addressed to Detzner, Caldwell wrote that supervisors across the state failed to act "fairly and competently," ultimately undermining voters' confidence in the process.

Caldwell laid out a long list of errors and failures that he said "plagued the vote counting process," including problems with logic and accuracy tests, improper commingling of provisional ballots in Broward County and the 2,000-vote discrepancy between first and second unofficial results reported by Broward County.  

"We cannot afford to have another election that produces similar delays, irregularities and questions over the validity of the election system," he wrote. "Let’s get in front of this problem now so we can be the model for fair, free and open elections, instead of the target of national criticism and derision."

Cabinet officers and new members will be sworn in Tuesday during the Legislature's organizational session. 

Florida Dems hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot 'cure' forms

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Bins filled with ballots are stacked at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office as employees count ballots during a recount Wednesday in Lauderhill. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Florida Democratic Party has hired an investigator to dig into altered "cure affidavit" forms sent out to voters whose mail-in ballots had missing or non-matching signatures, according to a statement released by the party's lawyer.

"Upon receiving notice of the allegations that the form was incorrect, FDP took immediate steps, including hiring an independent investigator to review the issues at hand," read the statement by attorney Mark Herron. "As soon as we know the results of the investigation we will advise you."

The move comes after the Florida Department of State sent a letter to federal prosecutors on Nov. 9 asking them to look into the forms, which they had received from voters in four different counties. The forms, which the voters had apparently received from the Democratic party, had an incorrect deadline listed at the top for mail-in ballots to be fixed: Nov. 8, instead of the real deadline of Nov. 5.

In the letter, the department's lawyer, Bradley McVay, wrote that altering election forms is a criminal offense.

READ MORE: Florida officials flag a possible violation of elections law by state Democrats

Then, the Naples Daily News reported that leaders in the party had directed staffers and volunteers to send the altered forms out to voters even after the true deadline had passed.

According to Caroline Rowland, a spokeswoman for the Democrats, the investigation is expected to be finished "shortly."

Embattled Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes submits resignation

 

Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s embattled supervisor of elections, submitted her resignation Sunday.

Snipes’ resignation, first reported by the Sun-Sentinel, came only hours after her staff ended a brutal two-week stretch in which they misplaced 2,000 ballots during a statewide recount, mixed about two dozen invalid ballots with about 200 good ones, and blew a deadline to submit machine recount results to the state.

Snipes was attacked as corrupt by President Donald Trump and other Republicans, accused without evidence of trying to steal the U.S. Senate election by Gov. Rick Scott and maligned as “incompetent” by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Egged on by the allegations, Republican protestors spent days outside Snipes’ Lauderhill headquarters during a state-mandated recount claiming that she was rigging the elections.

Attempts to reach Snipes and contracted Broward elections attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks Sunday night were not successful. The Sun-Sentinel reported that the effective date was likely during the first week of January.

Evelyn Pérez-Verdia, a former communications consultant for Snipes’ office, tweeted early Sunday evening that Snipes had sent her resignation to the state.

“I spoke to one of her key people, [who] has confirmed that the resignation letter was sent today,” Pérez-Verdia said on Twitter.

Click here to read more.

Florida recount odyssey confirms that Rick Scott is going to be a U.S. Senator

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Florida’s recount madness is over, Broward’s supervisor of elections is out, and Rick Scott is going to be a U.S. Senator.

On Sunday, following a 12-day ordeal in which 8.3 million ballots were counted twice — some of them thrice — Florida’s Division of Elections confirmed that Scott beat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes. Shortly after, Nelson called the term-limited governor to concede, ending any speculation that he might challenge the results.

With the extended campaign behind him, Scott, 65, will now head to Washington, where he will add to the Republican Party’s majority in the U.S. Senate. The win is the third in three tries for the former healthcare executive, who unexpectedly rode a Tea Party wave into the governor’s mansion in 2010 and used a tireless work ethic and his own personal wealth to hold onto power.

“My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on: Making Washington Work,” Scott, who spent $64 million of his own money on his campaign, said in a statement.

Scott, who topped 50 percent of the vote for the first time in his political career, called Sunday for the country to “come together.” But his victory follows a tumultuous two-week period in which he claimed rampant voter fraud in South Florida without evidence and asserted that “unethical liberals” were trying to steal his election. As if to sting Nelson one last time on his way out the door, Scott preempted the outgoing Senator’s concession speech Sunday by announcing that Nelson had called him and was bowing out.

“We may have been heavily outspent in this campaign, but we were never outworked,” Nelson said in a statement that lacked any congratulations for Scott. “To all Floridians, whether you voted for me, or for my opponent, or you didn’t vote at all, I ask that you to never give up this fight.”

Click here to read the rest.

November 16, 2018

Federal judge denies request to extend mail-in ballot deadline

Walker

Federal Judge Mark Walker denied an injunction Friday night in a case to extend the mail-in ballot deadline to 10 days after the election, just like overseas and military ballots.

VoteVets Action Fund, a progressive veterans' advocacy group, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed their suit against the state in the Northern District of Florida on Monday.

They asked that mail-in ballots that were postmarked before Election Day, but not delivered before the polls closed at 7 p.m., be counted. They argued that the more imminent deadline for domestic mail-in ballots imposes an undue burden on the right to vote and deprives domestic mail-in voters of equal protection.

At a brief hearing in Tallahassee Wednesday, attorneys questioned expert witness Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley. Earley said there were only 145 late domestic vote-by-mail ballots that came into the county. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's attorney, Marc Elias, said Nelson's campaign hoped to allow postmarked absentees to be counted within 10 days after the election, similarly to overseas and military members' ballots.

According to Florida law, mail-in ballots cannot be counted if they arrive after 7 p.m. on Election Day. The lawsuit claims voters shouldn’t be faulted for absentee ballots that arrived late.

Attorneys argued arbitrary factors beyond voters’ control, like mail delivery speed, weather emergencies, traffic delays, understaffing and human error cause mail to take longer to process and deliver.

They cited the case of one voter in Miami-Dade County, who reported that he mailed his ballot on October 29, 2018 — over a week before Election Day — yet learned after Election Day that his ballot had not been received by the county’s elections supervisor.

Elias cited the example of a few hundred mail-in ballots that were postmarked before Nov. 6 but were stuck in an Opa-locka mailing facility, possibly because of an FBI investigation into the Aventura man who sent pipe bombs through the mail before the election.

In his denial, Walker wrote that the whole point of the 10-day exception for overseas voters is to give them the same right to vote as domestic voters.

Walker compared the situation to the special precautions a military member may take while sending and receiving mail from loved ones while overseas.

“When he or she receives care packages from family members back home in the United States, it is only because his or her family sent the package weeks before. And when his or her family receives a letter from that uniformed voter, it is only because that uniformed voter sent it weeks before as well,” Walker wrote. “The same holds true for the uniformed voter’s ballot.”

Walker concluded that the different deadlines were meant to level the ground for overseas and domestic voters, and should remain as such.

"These rules have been used for over a decade, and to enjoin the use of them now would create a substantial hardship on the defendants and perhaps undermine the electoral process,” he wrote.

November 15, 2018

Miami-Dade launches hand recount of 10,000 uncounted ballots in Scott vs. Nelson

After all the drama, Broward finishes recount with minutes to spare — but it won’t count

Snipes

Via @HarrisAlexC and @MartinDVassolo

With just 15 minutes to go before Thursday’s deadline, Broward County finally finished recounting every vote.

At least, that’s what officials told reporters and the canvassing board at 2:45 p.m. In a surprise announcement at nearly 6 p.m., Broward’s director of elections planning, Joseph D’Alessandro, told the canvassing board the county actually turned in results to the state two minutes late. They won’t count officially.

Broward’s original count, turned in Nov. 10, will stand until the manual recount totals come in Sunday at noon. The manual recount will be added to the first unofficial count.

“Basically I just worked my ass off for nothing,” D’Alessandro said. “What caused it was my unfamiliarity with their website.”

D’Alessandro also told judges that a discrepancy between the first count and the recount — about 2,040 votes — was due to “a commingling of ballots.”

“We did not correctly handle the ballots,” he said. “We are going to look into that and see what took place.”

Brenda Snipes, the Broward supervisor of elections, said the next step is collecting the ballots with undervotes and overvotes in the the races for which the state has ordered a manual recount.

Because the margins were under .25 percent, three Broward races will be manually recounted: the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott; the commissioner of agriculture race between Nikki Fried and Matt Caldwell; and West Park Commission Seat One.

Broward plans to begin the manual recount Friday at 7 a.m. It will exclusively involve counting the undervotes and overvotes. The elections department was still completing a machine recount on some vote-by-mail ballots on Friday, according to D’Alessandro. Although the results won’t count, Snipes said any overvotes and undervotes found may be counted in the manual recount.

“I believe if they find under and over votes, we do have to use those,” Snipes said.

The gubernatorial race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was decided in the statewide recount. DeSantis won.

The Broward recount showed about 2,500 fewer votes in each race, with Democratic candidates losing about 1,300 votes each and Republicans losing about 600 votes. Scott lost 606 votes, while Nelson lost 1,385, leaving Scott with a net gain of 779 votes in the county. That led to accusations from top Scott surrogates, including senior campaign advisor Brad Todd on MSNBC, that Broward turned in the votes late to favor Nelson.

Click here to read the rest.

Palm Beach didn’t make the Florida recount deadline. What happens next?

 

Even prayers weren’t enough for Palm Beach County to make Florida’s recount deadline.

After battling with decade-old ballot-counting machines only capable of recounting one race at a time, overheated equipment and ballot count discrepancies, the county failed to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday state deadline for submitting updated vote totals in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. Palm Beach, where nearly 600,000 ballots were cast, appeared to be one of only three counties to miss the deadline.

Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher had warned that elections staff would not be able to meet the deadline to recount votes cast in the governor and agriculture commissioner races and in a Florida House race, but said on Monday that she was confident her staff would complete the recount of votes in the Senate race.

That changed after ballot-counting machines overheated on Tuesday night and gave incorrect vote totals, forcing the county to recount about 175,000 early votes. By Wednesday afternoon the machines had been fixed, but Bucher said she was “in prayer mode to finish on time.” The new vote totals didn’t match the totals from before the machines malfunctioned, forcing Bucher’s information technology manager to hunt for several boxes of ballots that had already been recounted but whose tallies were lost when the equipment overheated.

“We gave a heroic effort and given probably three or four more hours we might have made the time,” Bucher said on Thursday afternoon.

Read the rest here.

Ron DeSantis is Florida’s next governor. Margin barely budges after machine recount.

 

Via @MahoneysTheName

TALLAHASSEE - Nine days after Election Day, and one machine recount later, it is all but official: Ron DeSantis is Florida’s next governor.

The results of the statewide machine recount, which rolled by the Thursday 3 p.m. deadline, solidified what most already knew, as DeSantis has already busied himself with transitioning to power and creating a new government.

In the governor’s race, it was an anticlimactic finish to the dramatic machine recount — plagued with technical issues and an avalanche of lawsuits — with almost no change in the margin between DeSantis and his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, since this weekend. Still, about 0.41 percentage points separate the two candidates, or just under 34,000 votes.

Just after the results were released, DeSantis sent a statement to reporters declaring victory — once again.

“I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” his statement read, striking a more conciliatory tone than the confrontational approach he used in the campaign.

He said the campaign must now end so it can “give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be.”

“And, to this end, I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state.”

Unlike the races for U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture, DeSantis’ margin of victory is not slim enough to proceed to a manual recount, which requires the race to be within one-fourth of a percentage point.

That means Thursday is the end of the road, and barring a lawsuit that demands a change in procedure, the official results of the governor’s race will likely be submitted by the counties on Sunday and will likely be officially certified on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Click here to read more.

Florida orders first statewide hand recounts ever, as legal fights continue

 

w/ @SteveBousquet

An unprecedented statewide hand recount is now under way in the Sunshine State, further extending a muddled, high stakes battle over every last vote in Florida’s crucial U.S. Senate race.

But, barring a legal challenge, the race for governor is over.

Following a five-day machine recount of the more than 8.3 million votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered hand recounts Thursday afternoon in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, and also the race for agriculture commissioner between Nicole “Nikki” Fried and Matt Caldwell. The race for governor, which also went through a machi

ne recount, was outside the margins that trigger a manual recount as new tallies came in, making Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis the governor-elect a full nine days after Democrat Andrew Gillum first conceded.

“I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Gillum, who explicitly revoked his election night concession Saturday as a machine recount began, did not re-concede Thursday, if there is such a thing.

But DeSantis said the campaign must end and “give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future.”

Detzner’s manual recount order gives canvassing boards in the state’s 67 counties three hectic days to pore over thousands of ballots that were rejected by machines because of “overvotes” — when a voter appears to have chosen more than one candidate in a race — or “undervotes,” in which a voter appears to have skipped a race altogether. With the help of state guidelines, the canvassing boards, which are allowed to enlist the help of volunteers, will try to determine how these voters intended to vote.

Read the rest here.

Judge gives thousands of voters with rejected ballots time to fix signature problems

 

A federal judge has ordered Florida’s 67 elections supervisors to give thousands of voters whose ballots were rejected over mismatched signatures another two days to fix the problem and have their votes counted toward the results of the 2018 midterms.

Judge Mark Walker ruled early Thursday that the state’s elections offices have unconstitutionally applied the law that lays out the methods for voters to “cure” problematic signatures on absentee and provisional ballots. More than 3,700 such ballots were rejected this year after canvassing boards deemed that a signature on an envelope containing a mail-in or provisional ballot did not match the signature the state had on file for the voter.

The ruling gives new life to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s bid to keep his seat through on ongoing recount of Tuesday’s elections. The Senate campaign of Gov. Rick Scott, who is ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percent of the vote, called the decision “baseless” and said he would immediately file an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta.

Walker issued a 34-page order Thursday morning that said Florida’s “questionable practice” for curing ballot signature mismatches has “no standards, an illusory process to cure and no process to challenge the rejection,” and as a result does not pass constitutional muster.

“Florida law provides no opportunity for voters to challenge the determination of the canvassing board that their votes do not count,” Walker wrote. “Interestingly, Florida law does provide an opportunity for any voter or candidate to challenge a signature that was accepted and thus a vote that was counted.”

Nelson’s campaign and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida sued last week to invalidate the signature rejection process, leading to a 5-hour hearing Wednesday in Walker’s Tallahassee courtroom. The state presented information showing that 45 of Florida’s 67 counties have rejected a combined 3,688 mail-in ballots and 93 provisional ballots over mismatched signatures. Miami-Dade and Duval counties, two of the largest counties in the state, did not report numbers.

Nelson, a Democrat, unofficially trails Scott, a Republican, by 12,562 votes.

Scott’s administration and the National Republican Senatorial Committee argued against an injunction, and asserted that the lawsuit by Senate candidate Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida was barred because it wasn’t filed before election day. In announcing an appeal, Scott’s campaign said Nelson’s attorneys are making the opposite argument on signature mismatches in Arizona, in a case where the Democratic candidate was leading and the Republican was trailing.

Lauren Schenone, the Scott campaign’s press secretary, called the Nelson campaign’s legal arguments “blatant hypocrisy.”

“What this case comes down to,” Walker wrote, “is that without procedural safeguards, the use of signature matching is not reasonable and may lead to unconstitutional disenfranchisement.”

Click here to read the rest.

November 14, 2018

Florida asks feds to investigate whether Democrats altered official election forms

Broward balots

Via @MahoneystheName

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of State, which oversees elections, has asked federal prosecutors to look into faulty forms sent to voters in at least four counties that may have caused them to miss the deadline for fixing problems with their mail-in ballots.

Emails released by the department show that the forms appear to have been sent by the state Democratic Party.

In a post-midterm season that is bubbling over with lawsuits and allegations of rampant voter fraud, this is the first instance in which state officials have flagged a possible violation of elections law.

The investigation was requested in a letter, sent Friday Nov. 9 from Bradley McVay, the department’s general counsel, to the U.S. attorneys for the northern, middle and southern districts of Florida. Despite the letter’s sent date, it was only released to news outlets Tuesday.

The issue: Voters in at least four counties — Broward, Citrus, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa — received “cure affidavits,” or forms used to fix defects in the mail-in ballots, such as a missing or mismatched signature on the original ballot. But those forms listed the wrong due date: Thursday, Nov. 8 instead of Tuesday, Nov. 6.

“Altering a form in a manner that provides the incorrect date for a voter to cure a defect ... imposes a burden on the voter significant enough to frustrate the voter’s ability to vote,” McVay wrote.

Click here to read the rest.

Broward’s Snipes says invalid ballots ‘were never counted,’ contradicting her attorney

 

Via @MartinDVassolo

The embattled elections chief of Broward County, who has been dogged by questions over the competence of her department, appeared to contradict her attorney Tuesday in trying to tamp down reports that she included invalid ballots in vote totals transmitted to the state over the weekend.

Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections in Florida’s second-largest county, appeared on CNN just before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and told anchor Chris Cuomo that her office did not include a batch of 205 provisional ballots, which contained about 20 invalid ballots, in Broward’s unofficial vote totals sent Saturday to Tallahassee.

“They were never counted,” she said. “Those ballots had been separated, they’ve been isolated. They have not been counted to date.”

As her department was working to meet a Saturday afternoon deadline to transmit its unofficial vote tally to the state, Snipes had decided to sort through the 205 ballots administratively, removing the ballots themselves from the identifying envelopes in which they were stored.

When Republican attorneys objected, Snipes agreed to hand over the ballots to the county canvassing board, the three-person body tasked with reviewing absentee and provisional ballots, and overseeing the recount process. The canvassing board rejected about 20 of those ballots for violations like discrepancies between a voter’s signature on the envelope and the signature available on file with the state.

Because Snipes had already mixed the ballots, making them impossible to identify, the canvassing board was faced with the dilemma of accepting a few invalid ballots or rejecting the whole lot. Snipes recommended Saturday that the canvassing board accept all of the votes, arguing that it would be illogical to disenfranchise the majority of the voters for the sake of a few. The canvassing board never publicly stated what its decision would be, but attorneys for Democratic and Republican candidates said it was their understanding the entire batch had been included.

Amid a haze of uncertainty, Eugene Pettis, the attorney representing Snipes in the elections lawsuits to which she is a party, told reporters following the Saturday deadline to transmit Broward’s results that the canvassing board had in fact included the 205 provisional ballots in its count.

“The 205 previously opened provisional ballots, are they included in the numbers sent to the state or not?” asked a reporter.

“Yes. They are,” Pettis responded. “They have been included in that process.”

Read the rest here.

Palm Beach County ‘in prayer mode’ to finish Senate recount by state deadline

 

Palm Beach County has managed to recount about 175,000 early votes affected by a machine malfunction, but the county is still far behind schedule to finish recounts in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

On Wednesday, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said her staff had worked through the night to recount early votes after ballot-counting machines overheated Tuesday and gave incorrect vote totals. The county brought in mechanics to repair the machines on Tuesday, and Bucher said the equipment had worked well overnight.

But Bucher said she wasn’t sure whether elections staff would be able to finish recounting votes cast in the Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline set by the state.

“We’re in prayer mode to finish on time,” she told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

Click here to read the rest.

Rick Scott won't certify the results of his own election, lawyer says

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during an event in Hialeah, Fla. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Scott McIntyre 775192837

Gov. Rick Scott will not participate in the Elections Canvassing Commission on Tuesday, relieving him from the chance that he could certify — or not — the results of his U.S. Senate race.

Scott had been silent about his participation on the canvassing commission, a relatively obscure board that signs off on the results of each federal, state and multi-county election. The commission consists of Scott and two members of the Cabinet that he chooses.

On Wednesday, his lawyer told U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that Scott plans to recuse himself from the commission, just like he did in 2014, when Scott was running for re-election and also faced the chance of certifying the results of his own election.

Since the other members of the Cabinet were also on the ballot, he appointed then-state Senate President Don Gaetz, Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Kelli Stargel to fill in for them on the commission four years ago.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida said they want a "neutral third party" to fill in for Scott. The only other member of the Cabinet who could replace him — CFO Jimmy Patronis — is a Scott appointee who also is also on the ballot this year.

November 13, 2018

FDLE commissioner says he's 'deeply troubled' that Pam Bondi thinks he wouldn't investigate voter fraud

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen wrote to Attorney General Pam Bondi's yesterday saying he was "deeply troubled" that she thinks he wouldn't investigate voter fraud in the midterm elections.

"I am deeply troubled that you think I have announced that FDLE would not be pursuing any investigation or inquiry into the conduct of elections officials in Broward or Palm Beach counties (or any other county) that may rise to the level of criminal conduct during the 2018 election," Swearingen wrote. "I have made no such announcement."

Swearingen's letter was in response to a letter Bondi had sent him on Sunday questioning his competence, writing that she was "deeply troubled" that he had not opened an investigation into Gov. Rick Scott's unfounded claims of voter fraud in his U.S. Senate race.

"Your duty to investigate this matter is clear," she wrote, adding, "Florida is counting on you."

Swearingen went on to assure her that his office was working with the Secretary of State to watch for crimes in the midterm election, and he said he had already opened a "preliminary inquiry" before she'd sent her letter.

Bondi had criticized Swearingen over claims that FDLE would need a formal letter from the governor to investigate voter fraud.

Swearingen replied that it had been "inaccurately reported" that his office would need a written letter from the governor before pursuing an investigation.

"We simply responded to media inquiries as to whether such a written request had been received and as of the date of this letter it has not," he wrote.

Despite Scott repeatedly claiming there has been "rampant fraud" in his race, he has presented no evidence for it, and state officials, the Palm Beach County state attorney and a Broward County judge have all said they've found no evidence of fraud.

The U.S. Department of Justice was in Palm Beach County monitoring the election, but the agency declined to comment about what observers saw.

-Herald/Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Elizabeth Koh contributed to this report.

November 12, 2018

Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty

President Donald Trump and Florida’s two highest-ranking Republicans are continuing to push unfounded claims of voter fraud as the state recounts votes to decide closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The president said valid ballots in Florida should be thrown out because “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

Governor Rick Scott said his Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Bill Nelson, is “clearly trying commit voter fraud to win this election.”

And Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “Democrat lawyers... are here to change the results of the election and Broward is where they plan to do it.”

There is no evidence of voter fraud in Broward County, according to election monitors from the state’s Division of Elections who have been stationed there since at least Election Day. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not received a request in writing to investigate voter fraud from Scott. And the Florida Department of State said Monday their staff has “not seen any evidence of criminal activity in Broward County at this time. ”

The president suggested Monday that Florida should certify the election based on Election Night vote tallies — even though the state is in the midst of a legally mandated recount. He had previously tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” suggesting that Broward County withheld votes during the 2016 presidential election because they were “getting ready to do a ‘number’” on Trump’s margin of victory in Florida and that Democrats “’found’ many votes” in Broward County to help Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted, while providing no evidence. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Read more here.

About 150 hurricane victims were allowed to vote by email. That’s against Florida law.

After Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle in October, the top elections official in Bay County allowed about 150 displaced voters to cast ballots by email, even though there is no provision that allows for it in state law.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen defended that decision vigorously Monday, noting the mass devastation that rocked the coastal county one month ago.

“You did not go through what we went through,” he said, describing areas that were shut off by law enforcement and people barred from returning to their homes. “If some are unhappy we did so well up here, I don’t know what to tell them. We sure had an opportunity to not do well, I can tell you that much.”

Andersen said that all of those ballots were verified by signature, and that he made the decision to allow voters to scan and email in their ballots to his office for those who were “displaced.” He declined to elaborate on exactly how his office verified displacement in every case.

“When devastation happens, leaders rise to the top and make decisions,” he said. “I will not change my mind on this, not for these voters.”

“Nobody would even be visiting anyone if the race wasn’t this close,” he added. “It’s the nature of the beast.”

Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order filed Oct. 18 that allowed elections supervisors in eight hurricane-hit counties — Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington — to extend early voting days and designate more early voting locations, among other measures meant to lessen the storm’s impact on voting.

But it did not allow for votes to be returned by email or fax.

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