Florida again at cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY TERRY SPENCER

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, FLA.

— Florida is once again at the cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy, but this year there are no hang­ing chads or but­ter­fly bal­lots like in 2000. And no an­gry mobs in suits — at least not yet.

The deeply pur­ple state will learn Satur­day whether there will be re­counts in the bit­ter and tight U.S. Se­nate race be­tween Re­pub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott and in­cum­bent Demo­crat Bill Nel­son; and in the gov­er­nor’s race be­tween for­mer Re­pub­li­can U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis and the Demo­cratic mayor of Tal­la­has­see, An­drew Gil­lum.

The state’s re­count pro­ce­dures have been re­vised since Florida held the coun­try hostage for a month 18 years ago, when Ge­orge W. Bush edged Al Gore for the pres­i­dency. Among other things, the in­fa­mous punch-card bal­lots are no longer.

Yet, Scott and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day al­leged fraud without ev­i­dence, even as the of­ten-la­bo­ri­ous process of re­view­ing bal­lots in a close race con­tin­ued ahead of the Satur­day noon dead­line. Both Scott and Nel­son sought to get the courts to in­ter­vene.

Scott said “un­eth­i­cal lib­er­als” were try­ing to steal the elec­tion in Demo­cratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach County. He sug­gested some­thing was awry be­cause vote-coun­ters were tak­ing longer there than in other ju­ris­dic­tions, and his thin lead has kept nar­row­ing since Elec­tion Night. On Fri­day, he led by 0.21 per­cent­age point, low enough to re­quire a re­count.

Nel­son lawyer Marc Elias said Scott was us­ing his of­fi­cial po­si­tion to try to in­flu­ence the elec­tion.

“He him­self said that as bal­lots are be­ing counted, it is tight­en­ing. Then he made some veiled threat or sug­ges­tion that he was some­how go­ing to in­volve law en­force­ment,” Elias said. “This is not a third world dic­ta­tor­ship. We do not let peo­ple seize bal­lots when they think they’re los­ing.”

A re­count is manda­tory if the win­ning can­di­date’s mar­gin is less than 0.5 per­cent­age points when the first un­of­fi­cial count is ver­i­fied Satur­day by Florida’s sec­re­tary of state. And if the mar­gin is less than 0.25 per­cent, the re­count must be done by hand.

In Wash­ing­ton, Trump took Scott’s side, telling re­porters that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could get in­volved and adding: “all of the sud­den they are find­ing votes out of nowhere.”

“What’s go­ing on in Florida is a dis­grace,” he said.

While the Florida De­part­ment of Law En­force­ment said there had been no al­le­ga­tions of fraud, Scott asked — but did not or­der — the agency to in­ves­ti­gate the coun­ties’ elec­tions de­part­ments. A spokes­woman for the agency said there were no cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of fraud, there­fore no ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

[AP PHOTO]

In this im­age taken from video, Su­san Bucher, right, Palm Beach County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions, and Judge Au­gust Bon­avita, left, look at pro­vi­sional bal­lots Fri­day in Riviera Beach, Fla.

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