Pos­si­ble re­counts loom in tight Florida gov, Se­nate con­tests

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Bren­dan Farrington

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE, FLA. >> Re­pub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott has al­leged — with­out cit­ing ev­i­dence — that elec­tions of­fi­cials in South Florida are try­ing to “steal” the elec­tion for Democrats as ra­zor-thin mar­gins raise the specter of re­counts and court bat­tles in the state’s races for Se­nate and gov­er­nor.

In the gov­er­nor’s race, Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum’s cam­paign said Thurs­day it’s ready­ing for a pos­si­ble re­count. The race has tight­ened since he con­ceded to Re­pub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis on Tues­day night. As of Thurs­day af­ter­noon, DeSan­tis led Gil­lum by 0.47 per­cent­age point.

Mean­while, Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Sen. Bill Nel­son has be­gun pre­par­ing for a po­ten­tial re­count in a race still too close to call against Scott, who is leav­ing the gov­er­nor’s seat be­cause of term lim­its. Nel­son’s lawyer called that race a “jump ball.” Scott’s cam­paign urged Nel­son to con­cede. Scott held a 0.21 per­cent­age lead over Nel­son on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Florida’s is a peren­nial swing state, and many of its elec­tions have been de­cided by the thinnest of mar­gins since 2000, when Florida de­cided the pres­i­dency by 537 votes in a con­test that took more than five weeks to sort out. Still, the state has never seen so many dead heats in one year.

And like 2000, the count­ing process is be­com­ing con­tentious.

Scott said at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day night that he was ask­ing the Florida De­part­ment of Law En­force­ment to in­ves­ti­gate elec­tions of­fices in the Demo­cratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward coun­ties, ques­tion­ing whether they are tak­ing too long in vote-count­ing in some sort of ef­fort to in­flate the Demo­cratic vote.

“I will not stand idly by as un­eth­i­cal lib­er­als try to steal this elec­tion from the great peo­ple of Florida,” Scott said.

Scott cited no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing, and the coun­ties have un­til noon Satur­day to re­port their un­of­fi­cial vote count. FDLE Spokes­woman Gretl Plessinger said the law en­force­ment agency would fol­low up on Scott’s re­quest. But the agency did not an­nounce an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Scott’s cam­paign sep­a­rately filed a law­suit de­mand­ing that the Broward County su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions turn over sev­eral records de­tail­ing the count­ing and col­lec­tion of bal­lots cast for each day of the past week. A hear­ing on that case was set for Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Nel­son’s cam­paign re­leased a state­ment say­ing Scott’s ac­tion ap­pears to be po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and borne of des­per­a­tion.

Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted: “Law En­force­ment is look­ing into an­other big cor­rup­tion scan­dal hav­ing to do with Elec­tion Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”

Trump also said it was pos­si­ble the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could get in­volved in the Florida vote count. “All of the sud­den they are find­ing votes out of nowhere,” he said. “What’s go­ing on in Florida is a dis­grace.”

Un­der Florida law, 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.

Sarah Rev­ell, a spokes­woman for the Florida De­part­ment of State, didn’t know of any other re­count in a gov­er­nor or Se­nate race in state his­tory.

The As­so­ci­ated Press has called the gov­er­nor’s race for DeSan­tis. If Satur­day’s count shows DeSan­tis with a mar­gin nar­row enough to trig­ger Florida Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date An­drew Gil­lum gives his con­ces­sion speech as he is joined on stage by his wife R. Jai Gil­lum, right, and run­ning mate Chris King and his wife Kris­ten Tues­day in Tal­la­has­see, Fla.

a re­count, AP will re­tract its call for DeSan­tis. It is AP pol­icy not to call a race that is fac­ing a re­count.

The AP has not called a win­ner in the Se­nate race.

Gil­lum’s cam­paign said it has hired at­tor­ney Barry Richard, who rep­re­sented Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in the 2000 re­count, and is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion. Gil­lum’s cam­paign said his ini­tial con­ces­sion Tues­day night was based on “best in­for­ma­tion avail­able about the num­ber of out­stand­ing bal­lots” at the time.

“Since that time, it has be­come clear there are many more un­counted bal­lots than was orig­i­nally re­ported,” the cam­paign said. “We are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing ev­ery sin­gle vote in Florida is counted.”

DeSan­tis de­clined to dis­cuss prospects for a re­count, telling re­porters he’s “very proud to be elected.”

“We’re work­ing re­ally hard on the tran­si­tion,” he said.

Florida was mocked for its han­dling of the in­fa­mous 2000 re­count. At the time, the state lacked uni­form rules for how to pro­ceed. That has changed, with the Leg­is­la­ture pass­ing a clear pro­ce­dure on how a re­count should be con­ducted.

“This is not like it was in 2000. There’s not a lot of room for strat­egy,” Richard said.

Broward Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes said she didn’t know how many bal­lots re­main to be counted, but all were be­ing pro­cessed. She also did not know how many pro­vi­sional, mil­i­tary and mis­marked bal­lots need to be counted. Her de­part­ment’s web­site said bal­lots cast on Elec­tion Day have been counted.

Marc Elias, a lawyer hired

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Re­pub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Rick Scott speaks to sup­port­ers at an elec­tion watch party, Wed­nes­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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