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Florida’s midterm elections enter the courts as campaigns battle over looming recounts


Tension over looming recounts in three statewide elections spilled into the courts and streets of South Florida Friday as candidates fighting for their political lives lobbed allegations of fraud and voter disenfranchisement.

Judges from Fort Lauderdale to Tallahassee weighed lawsuits that could influence the outcome of tight races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner. Thousands of ballots remained uncounted following an election that saw more than 8 million people vote. And protesters clashed in Broward County as the nation’s most embattled elections supervisor scrambled to transmit to the state by noon Saturday every vote cast.

“Bad things have gone on in Broward County,” President Donald Trump told the White House press corps. “Really bad things.”

Trump played the recount instigator all day Friday as Republican candidates watched the not-quite-final vote tallies trickle in to the state’s Division of Elections. By the evening, Gov. Rick Scott was ahead of Sen. Bill Nelson by 14,848 votes in the race for Nelson’s Senate seat, and former congressman Ron DeSantis was ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 36,002 in the race for governor.

All of Florida’s 67 elections supervisors must transmit unofficial results by noon Saturday to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who will review the data and determine whether any races are in need of automatic recounts.

Regardless, the governor’s race appears headed for a mandatory machine recount, and the races for Senate and commissioner of agriculture will likely need recounts done by hand. With the nationally watched elections so close, every vote matters. And the campaigns are fighting over every ballot before the state’s 67 canvassing boards — appointed bodies that review local elections and pore over problematic ballots — and judges in state and federal court.

Attorneys for Scott, who accused elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach of voter fraud Thursday without presenting any evidence, were in courtrooms in both counties prosecuting lawsuits that could influence the election. In Broward, Scott forced elections supervisor Brenda Snipes to turn over data related to the number and type of ballots cast and the number of ballots yet to be counted by Friday evening. In Palm Beach, Scott won an order demanding that Supervisor Susan Bucher provide any ballots discarded by her staff to the county’s canvassing board for review, and that she turn over a list of voters who filed provisional ballots.

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