Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, right, shows a ballot box that was found in a rental car after the elections and turned out to only contain election day supplies, as election employees sort ballots and prepare to count them, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. (Photo: AP)
US President Donald Trump again weighed in on Florida’s election recount Tuesday, calling for the state’s Democratic senator to admit he lost and again implied two counties’ election officials are trying to steal the election from the Republicans without offering any proof.
Trump tweeted out Tuesday morning, “When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” Nelson is narrowly losing his re-election bid to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has also accused Broward and Palm Beach of fraud.
Both the state elections department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which are run by Republican appointees, have said they have seen no evidence of voter fraud anywhere in the state and a Broward judge challenged anyone who has evidence of fraud to file a report.
But there have been problems. Palm Beach said it won’t finish its recount by the Thursday deadline. And in oft-criticized Broward County, additional sheriff’s deputies were sent to guard ballots and voting machines, a compromise aimed at alleviating concerns.
White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said Tuesday the president “obviously has his opinion” on the recount. Trump on Monday tweeted that “An honest vote count is no longer possible” in Florida, without elaborating, and said “new ballots showed up out of nowhere.” It was unclear what he was referring to. He demanded that the election night results — which showed the Republicans leading based upon incomplete ballot counts — be used to determine the winner.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating to watch. You have a 12,000-vote gap and the other candidate refuses to concede,” Schlapp said, referring to Scott’s opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. “So I think at this point that it’s going to go through the process of the manual recount and the machine recount and we’ll see what happens, but we’re confident that Rick Scott will be the next senator of Florida.”
State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. In the Senate race, Scott’s lead over Nelson was 0.14 percentage points. In the governor’s contest, unofficial results showed Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points.
Once the recount is complete, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or less, a hand recount will be ordered. All 67 counties face a state-ordered deadline of Thursday to finish their recounts.
Broward Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter held an emergency hearing Monday on a request by Scott’s lawyers that deputies be put in charge of ballots and voting machines that aren’t being used until the recount is over.
An attorney for Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes described layers of security including keycard and password access to rooms where ballots are kept, secured by deputies and monitored by security cameras and representatives of both campaigns and parties.
Scott’s lawyers had alleged in court documents that Snipes was engaging in “suspect and unlawful vote counting practices” that violate state law and that she might “destroy evidence of any errors, accidents or unlawful conduct.”
The judge said he could see no evidence of any violations, and said “I am urging because of the highly public nature of this case to ramp down the rhetoric.”
“If someone in this lawsuit or someone in this county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor’s office, they should report it to their local law enforcement officer,” Tuter said. “If the lawyers are aware of it, they should swear out an affidavit, but everything the lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. Words mean things these days.”
Meanwhile, Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen in heavily Republican Bay County told the Miami Herald on Monday that he allowed about 150 people to cast ballots by email, which is illegal under state law. The county was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in October, and Scott ordered some special provisions for early voting there.
Manatee County, south of Tampa Bay, had to restart its recount Monday because a needed button on the machine wasn’t pushed. The error was caught after about a quarter of the county’s nearly 165,000 votes had been recounted, said Michael Bennett, the county’s Republican elections supervisor. It shouldn’t affect the county’s ability to meet Thursday’s deadline.
In Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the county’s 11-year-old tallying machines aren’t fast enough to complete the recount by Thursday. The county is doing the Senate race first and will then do the governor. If the deadline is not met in a race, the results it reported last Saturday will stand.