FL Gov Scott Warns "Rampant Fraud" Possible In Two Counties' Vote Counts
Florida Governor Rick Scott's Senate campaign is suing the elections supervisor in Broward County to turn over records regarding how ballots are being counted.
Scott accused election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties Thursday night of trying to thwart the will of the voters.
As we first reported Thursday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio started blasting the election officials, showing how they were violating election law and giving reminders that Broward's election supervisor was found in violation of election law during the 2016 election.
Since polls closed Tuesday night, Scott and Florida Congressman Rick DeSantis were both projected winners of the U.S. Senate and Governor's races respectively. By Thursday morning, however, elections officials in both counties were still releasing new vote counts which were dramatically in favor of Scott and DeSantis's Democratic opponents. Both counties are well known as Democratic strongholds.
Scott and others have pointed out that counties in the Florida panhandle, which were hit just weeks ago by a major Category 4 hurricane, managed to complete their vote counts on election night. Broward and Palm Beach Counties were still apparently finding and delivering new votes to add to the count nearly 48 hours after the polls closed.
Scott said he is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Scott told local reporters this on Thursday night: 'At the end of election night, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office said 634,000 votes had been cast. By 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the office reported 712,040 ballots counted with an unknown number of ballots remaining.'
This means that county elections officials in one county in Florida claimed to find an additional 78,000 ballots during the nearly two day period following the end of voting, a number that is larger than the seating capacity of many NFL stadiums in the state of Florida.
Under Florida law, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate's margin is less than 0.5 percentage points, so the ballots added after the deadline imposed by Florida state law to report the number of ballots being counted were the amount of Democrat votes needed to trigger that recount.
Lawyers representing the Democratic Party's interests were already in Florida by Thursday morning, led by Perkins Coie Attorney Marc Elias. Elias and that firm both served as general counsel to Hillary Clinton's 2016 and John Kerry's 2004 Presidential Campaigns.
Elias and Perkins Coie most notably hired Fusion GPS to ultimately create the "Steele Dossier", which is at the heart of the two year investigation by Robert Mueller of alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election.
In a conference call Thursday morning with reporters, Elias proclaimed that by the end of the month, Democratic Senator Incumbent Bill Nelson would have the victory and Nelson would be preparing for his fourth term.
“We’re doing this not just because it’s automatic, but we’re doing it to win," Elias said, "A significant number of ballots have not yet been counted and, because of the size of Florida, we believe the results of the election are unknown and require a recount.”
Scott's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit late Thursday demanding that Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes be ordered to turn over several records detailing the counting and collection of ballots cast in Tuesday's election. They are seeking an emergency hearing as the votes must be certified by noon Saturday.
The lawsuit was filed about the same time Scott ordered state law enforcement officials to investigate the Broward and Palm Beach voting operation.
Governor Scott said the officials in those counties were trying to "steal the election and thwart the efforts of voters in Florida."
"The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency and the supervisors are failing to give it to us," Scott said.
The lawsuit against Snipes and her office alleges they are "unwilling to disclose records revealing how many electors voted, how many ballots have been canvassed, and how many ballots remain to be canvassed."
"The lack of transparency raises substantial concerns about the validity of the election process. An emergency hearing is necessary as the Canvassing Board is obligated to submit the unofficial elections results to the Division of Elections by noon November 10, 2018. A recount in at least two, possibly three, of the statewide races appears likely."
Scott said Palm Beach County officials were refusing to provide information about the ballot count to the public. He said they were also illegally denying party officials access to the ballot counting area, forcing them to stand behind a glass wall with limited visibility and no ability to hear what counters are saying.
The allegations against Palm Beach County were outlined in the lawsuit filed by Scott's office.
"This is a clear violation of Florida law," Scott said.
Scott has a narrow lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and the race may be headed to a recount. His lead narrowed as final ballots in heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties were counted Wednesday and Thursday.
No one answered at Snipes' office late Thursday.
A spokesperson for Senator Bill Nelson said in a statement, “The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately. Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”
The Associated Press and WTVT-TV contributed to this report