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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

AP_775192837_FLORIDA-SCOTT
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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Miami-Dade is halfway through its recount. Broward hasn’t started yet.

 

Via @DougHanks @HarrisAlexC and @MartinDVassolo

By noon on Monday, Miami-Dade managed to recount about half of the more than 800,000 votes cast in the 2018 election. Broward County had not yet started its state-mandated recount.

The stark contrast in pace from Florida’s two largest sources of ballots highlights the pressure facing Broward as it tries to meet a Thursday afternoon deadline to recount the more than 700,000 votes cast in the largely Democratic county.

As of noon Monday, Broward still had to calibrate its ballot-scanning machines and sort out the ballots needed to be counted, suggesting the actual recount may not start until later in the day or even Tuesday morning.

Miami-Dade started its recount process earlier, with the Elections Department winning administrative permission from the county canvassing board to prepare for a recount before Florida officially ordered it.

Roberto Rodriguez, a spokesman for Miami-Dade Elections Department, said it was Thursday night when county workers began sorting out the page containing the governor, senate and agriculture commissioner races. Those are the only ballot pages that must be scanned again in the recount. On Monday, Broward officials said the page sorting process may not be over until Tuesday morning.

“They will not be completed with separating until late tonight or early tomorrow morning,” said Judge Deborah Carpenter-Toye, a member of the Broward canvassing board.

When the recount order came from Tallahassee Saturday afternoon, Miami-Dade was able to start recounting within hours. Its nine high-speed ballot counting machines began processing ballots shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday, and have been running 24 hours since. Broward was still testing its machines and sorting out ballot pages through the weekend and Monday morning.

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Judge rejects Scott’s bid to impound voting machines. Instead, he offers a compromise

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Via @JayHWeaver

A Broward judge on Monday turned down Gov. Rick Scott’s request to “impound and secure” all voting machines in Broward’s elections headquarters when they’re not being used to recount ballots.

But Circuit Judge Jack Tuter offered a compromise: Add three Broward Sheriff’s deputies to the current lineup of BSO officers and private security guards overseeing the recount under way at the county’s election’s center in Lauderhill.

Tuter stopped short of granting the Scott campaign’s request for an injunction to impound the machines, but agreed with his lawyers that “there needs to be an additional layer of confidence” in the vote-recount system in Broward. The votes in the U.S. Senate race between Scott and incumbent Bill Nelson are part of the recount.

Tuter asked the lawyers representing Scott’s campaign and attorneys for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to come back by 1 p.m. Monday with a plan that would assign the three additional BSO deputies to protecting the voting machines and ballots during the recount of races for U.S. Senate, Florida’s governor and state agriculture commissioner.

Tuter also warned the lawyers for all the candidates engaged in recounts to tone down their political attacks because the nation’s eyes are zeroed in on Broward once again — an obvious reference to Florida’s fiercely contested presidential recount in 2000.

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Want a job? As recount churns, DeSantis has to hire people for a new administration.

 

He had barely gotten off the stage after giving his victory speech at an Orlando hotel on Election Night when Ron DeSantis was asked about his schedule for the days ahead.

“When I stepped down from Congress, part of it was I knew I wasn’t going to be making the votes while I was campaigning,” he told reporters Tuesday. “But even more significant was thinking after the election, you have to put together a government ... we’ve been doing this quietly behind the scenes — not to be presumptuous, but just because you don’t have enough time [after the election].”

Things have changed a bit since then.

DeSantis’ margin of victory shrank in the days after Election Day to fall within the 0.5 percentage point gap that triggers a recount by tabulation machines (making the governor’s race the third statewide race to fall into a recount, along with U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture).

Yet while the chaos and finger-pointing of three simultaneous recounts engulfs Florida in all-too-familiar national spotlight, Ron DeSantis and his transition team are steadily establishing a new government.

That puts DeSantis in an uncertain, first-ever position for the state of Florida: a presumed governor-elect who must continue to push ahead while the results of his election are still being debated and recounted.

He is, at least, in the best position of the two other statewide Republicans facing a recount. As of Sunday, 0.41 percent separated him and his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum. That’s about 33,600 votes — which means a change in outcome is doubtful.

“We’ll let the lawyers do what they got to do but we’re good,” DeSantis told reporters at a Thursday event in Hialeah.

On Saturday, it wasn’t clear if Gillum would accept the outcome of a machine recount that must conclude by 3 p.m. Thursday.

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In 26 recounts in major races around the nation since 2000, only 3 outcomes changed

 

Via @KirbyWTweets

The races for governor, U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services are close — even for Florida.

But are they so close that a recount is likely to change the result?

History says almost certainly not.

As of Saturday’s reporting deadline, about 12,500 votes separated Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the most contentious of the three upcoming recount fights. Former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race by about 34,000 votes. Democrat Nikki Fried held about a 5,300-vote lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in the agriculture commissioner race.

Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less must go to a recount. All three races fit that bill.

Yet all three candidates who appeared to lead their races — Scott, DeSantis and Fried — have declared victory.

They may not be premature.

Math says Caldwell likely has the best chance to reverse his fortune in a recount. Plus he also might get a bump from the thousands of Republican-leaning overseas votes that have yet to be counted.

In the Senate race, Nelson’s lawyer, Marc Elias, said he also expects Nelson’s losing margin to be erased by a recount.

“If I had to place a bet, it is more likely than not Sen. Nelson will prevail in a recount,” Elias said on a conference call with reporters Friday.

But a recount that reverses an initial margin of more than a few hundred votes would be unprecedented in the recent history of American elections. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote, which advocates for electoral reforms that make it easier to vote, out of 4,687 statewide elections between 2000 and 2016, just 26 went to a recount. Of those 26, just three recounts wound up changing the initial result of the race: The 2004 Washington governor’s race, the 2006 Vermont state auditor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The average swing in those three elections after the recounts? About 311 votes.

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Republican pressure mounts for state police involvement in South Florida recounts

 

Florida’s highest-ranking government officials are increasing the pressure on state police to get involved in the counting of ballots in heavily Democratic South Florida as Gov. Rick Scott clings to a lead over Bill Nelson during a statewide recount of their nationally relevant U.S. Senate contest.

Attorneys for Scott’s campaign filed emergency motions Sunday requesting that embattled elections supervisors in Palm Beach and Broward counties turn over custody of their vote-tabulation machines and ballots to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and sheriff’s deputies during times when votes aren’t being counted. The motions come days after Scott claimed that “unethical liberals” in the two counties were trying to steal his election after late-developing returns narrowed his margins over Nelson and forced him into an ongoing statewide recount.

Also on Sunday, Attorney General Pam Bondi told FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen in a letter that she was “deeply troubled” by his agency’s decision to decline Scott’s press conference request to investigate elections fraud in the two counties and urged him to reconsider.

Scott has presented no evidence to back up his fraud allegations, and the Department of State has said its elections monitors have uncovered no criminal behavior. But amid a high-stakes battle over each of the 8.3 million votes cast in Tuesday’s midterms, Scott’s campaign is continuing to lean hard on the elections process in a densely populated area of the state that could make or break his 12,562-vote lead.

“As long as the Supervisor of Elections has unsupervised, unaccountable, and unfettered access to the ballot boxes, she will be able to destroy evidence of any errors, accidents, or unlawful conduct — making it nearly impossible for an aggrieved party to prosecute their claims or discover later what has actually occurred in the electoral process,” attorney Jason Zimmerman wrote in the complaint filed against Broward Supervisor or Elections Brenda Snipes.

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November 11, 2018

Machine glitches delay the start of ballot recount in Broward County by hours

Broward balots

Via @GlennGarvin

Broward County’s recount process finally got underway at 11 a.m. Sunday, four hours late, after technicians overcame a series of testing glitches on the counting machines.

The Broward elections office had said it would start recounting more than 700,000 ballots at 7 a.m. Sunday. But some problems with the machines that scan and tabulate the ballots delayed the process. 

A series of tests known as “logic and accuracy” intended to make sure the 10 machines were starting from zero and recording ballots accurately failed three times in a row, apparently for different reasons.

A room full of attorneys representing various candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties stirred uneasily and sometimes fired snarky verbal shots at one another until 10:45 a.m. when Broward County Judge Betsy Benson, chair of the canvassing board. said, “We are going to recess so I can go back and get some assistance.”

On Saturday, the razor-thin margins in the races of U.S. Senate, agriculture commissioner and the governor’s race caused Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to order mandatory machine recounts in all three statewide races after all counties submitted their unofficial results by noon.

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