Florida again at cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy

The Sacramento Bee - - Nation & World - BY TERRY SPENCER

Florida is once again at the cen­ter of elec­tion con­tro­versy, but this year there are no hang­ing chads or but­ter­fly bal­lots as in

2000. And no an­gry mobs in suits – at least not yet.

The deeply pur­ple state will learn Satur­day whether re­counts will be held in the bit­ter, 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 of­ten­la­bo­ri­ous 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 coun­ties. 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. Late Fri­day, he led by

0.18 per­cent­age points, low enough to re­quire a re­count.

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. 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.

Scott asked the Florida De­part­ment of Law En­force­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the coun­ties’ elec­tion de­part­ments. How­ever, a spokes­woman for the agency said there were no cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of fraud; there­fore, no ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The gov­er­nor, mean­while, filed law­suits in both coun­ties seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion on how their bal­lots were be­ing tal­lied. Nel­son filed his own fed­eral law­suit Fri­day, seek­ing to post­pone the Satur­day dead­line to sub­mit un­of­fi­cial elec­tion re­sults.

A judge Fri­day sided with Scott and or­dered Broward County’s elec­tion su­per­vi­sor to re­lease the voter in­for­ma­tion sought by the gov­er­nor.

The rul­ing came as the Broward Can­vass­ing Board met to re­view bal­lots that had been ini­tially deemed in­el­i­gi­ble. Lawyers from the cam­paigns, jour­nal­ists and ci­ti­zens crowded into a room to ob­serve.

The county has not an­swered ques­tions about its process and how many votes it has left to count.

Re­pub­li­can U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio sug­gested that Brenda Snipes, the Broward su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions, should be re­moved from of­fice once the dust set­tles on the race. Ru­bio said Snipes’ fail­ure to count all bal­lots in a more timely man­ner vi­o­lates state law.

“She’s cer­tainly a can­di­date for re­moval. … This is not one bad cy­cle, this is a pat­tern,” Ru­bio said in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters.

Nel­son is­sued barbs of his own.

“No one should stand in the way of the peo­ple of our state ex­er­cis­ing their right to vote and to have their voice heard,” the sen­a­tor said in a state­ment. “Clearly, Rick Scott is try­ing to stop all the votes from be­ing counted and he’s im­ped­ing the demo­cratic process.”

In the un­de­cided race for gov­er­nor, DeSan­tis was lead­ing by 0.43 per­cent­age points late Fri­day. That mar­gin, if it holds, would re­quire a re­count, but DeSan­tis has mostly stayed out of the fray, say­ing he was work­ing on plans for tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary.

Gil­lum con­ceded on elec­tion night, but as the vote mar­gin be­gan to nar­row, he said he wanted to see ev­ery vote counted, strongly in­di­cat­ing he would not stand in the way of a re­count.

A third statewide race that could go to a re­count – the agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner race be­tween Demo­crat Nikki Fried and Re­pub­li­can Matt Cald­well – is the tight­est of all, with Fried hold­ing a 3,120-vote lead – a mar­gin of 0.039 per­cent.

MARTIN MEISSNER AP

JEFF MARTIN AP

He­len Bros­nan, of the Na­tional Do­mes­tic Work­ers Al­liance, trains vol­un­teers who are work­ing the phones in a ware­house Fri­day in At­lanta. They are fran­ti­cally try­ing to reach Ge­or­gians who voted with pro­vi­sional bal­lots to make sure their votes are counted.

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