Florida elec­tion bat­tles heat up as re­count chances grow

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Stay Connected - BY TERRY SPENCER

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.”

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.

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 on 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 pro­ceed­ings.

Broward County has a trou­bled elec­tion his­tory, Its county’s elec­tion su­per­vi­sor, Brenda Snipes, has been at the cen­ter of sev­eral con­tro­ver­sies, in­clud­ing one 2016 case in which her of­fice de­stroyed phys­i­cal bal­lots but kept dig­i­tal copies. A judge ruled that the law had been vi­o­lated.

In the race for gover­nor, DeSan­tis was lead­ing by 0.47 per­cent­age points. While that mar­gin, if it holds, would re­quire a re­count, DeSan­tis has mostly stayed out of the fray.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.