‘We’ll complete the recount. There’s never been a deadline that we have missed…’
(Anthony Man and Lois K. Solomon, Sun Sentinel) Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday he wants the federal courts to throw out Florida’s recount deadlines, arguing that they’re too tight to fully check all the votes in his tight contest for re-election that—for the time being—Republican Gov. Rick Scott is winning.
Nelson’s claim, contained in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the northern district of Florida, asserts that the likelihood that Palm Beach County can’t complete vote counting by the deadlines and the possibility that Broward might not be able to would disenfranchise too many voters.
Broward—which has faced criticism from many for the failures of its election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, had yet to begin its recount on Monday, despite the Thursday deadline.
Late Tuesday morning, the Supervisor of Elections Office finished the process of separating the first page of the ballots—the page that contains the races that need to be recounted—from all the other pages, reports said.
“We’ll complete the recount. There’s never been a deadline that we have missed,” Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said Tuesday.
Republicans have expressed grave concerns over what they perceive to be efforts to swing the election fraudulently in Nelson’s favor. Nelson’s attorney, Marc Elias, made a name for himself in similar situations where Democrats overturned Republicans’ Election Day victories by coming up with new ballots that had not been counted.
If any counties can’t get ballots recounted on schedule, the state Elections Canvassing Commission uses the previous round of results to certify a final winner. That isn’t fair, Nelson and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee argued.
Chris Hartline, spokesman for Scott’s Senate campaign, said on Twitter that the Nelson campaign wants to bypass Florida law.
Just so it’s clear: our campaign has filed lawsuits to make sure that Florida law (which is designed to protect against fraud) is followed. @SenBillNelson and the liberal groups backing him have filed lawsuits to disregard Florida law and count unlawful ballots. https://t.co/daKLU18x6p
— Chris Hartline (@ChrisHartline) November 13, 2018
Broward County attorney Drew Meyers said he was in contact with his staff at the elections office, who told him the machine recount was on track to be completed by 6 a.m. Thursday.
Broward and Palm Beach counties have been the focus of national attention because of the slow pace of the initial round of vote counting from the election and the slow start to the recount, which was ordered by the state on Saturday for the three contests in which the margin was less than .05 percent of the vote.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said her office is “close to finishing” counting in the Senate race.
In Palm Beach County, the recount started Saturday afternoon. Miami-Dade County also started recounting over the weekend, and elections officials said about half the ballots were counted by Monday. Some counties, including Orange, didn’t start until Monday.
The deadline to report results in the statewide recount is 3 p.m. Thursday. That concerns the machine recount.
The issue in the Nelson lawsuit is what happens if the machine recount, using automated tabulation devices, finds a difference of 0.25 percent or less. In that case, votes that couldn’t be read by the machines because voters made stray marks or voted for more than one candidate or voted in a way that didn’t register are reviewed manually.
State law provides three days—from Thursday to Sunday—for a manual recount. “A manual recount of the Senate race is, at this point, an inevitability,” said the lawsuit from Nelson and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
And, the lawsuit said there is no way that deadline can be met. The deadlines “will force local canvasing boards to unconstitutionally reject” ballots that can’t be re-checked. “Because only some counties—given their size or other relevant factors—will be unable to meet the deadlines, voters will either have their vote counted during a recount or rejected based on the accident of where they reside.”
In Palm Beach County, Bucher said Monday that it would be “almost impossible” for her county to meet the Thursday deadline to complete recounts in all three races because of outdated laws and outdated equipment certified by the state.
She said Tuesday she has requested $11.1 million from Palm Beach County to get new voting machines that can do multiple recounts at once. She said the current machines have been in use since before she started the job in 2007.
The Palm Beach County elections Canvassing Board on Tuesday was reviewing duplicated ballots to determine voter intent. These ballots were damaged going through the voting machines or had other issues such as voters using Wite-Out or erasers to change their minds. Election staff duplicated those ballots by creating copies that could be counted. On Tuesday, the board was reviewing ballots questioned by Scott’s attorneys, who said Bucher allowed duplication without witnesses present.
(c)2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.