Rick Scott-Bill Nelson race: Florida’s post-election chaos continues Friday

Author: James Varney The Washington Times / AP
Published: Updated:

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s lawyers insisted Friday that there are at least enough votes still to be counted to flip the outcome of the race in his favor and make him a come-from-behind winner.

“Right now if I had to place a bet, I’d say it’s more likely than not Mr. Nelson will be sworn in for another term in the U.S. Senate in January,” Marc Elias, the senator’s lead recount lawyer, said in a conference call with reporters.

GOP Gov. Rick Scott has claimed victory and has filed two state lawsuits to stop what his camp says is an attempt to steal the election.

The focus since Election Day has been on Broward County, a Democratic stronghold, where batches of votes continue to be announced days after the polls closed, trimming Mr. Scott’s margin.

The elections office in Broward and its superintendent, Brenda Snipes, have been at the center of a number of court controversies, and state officials view the office as either incompetent or crooked.

President Trump, an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Scott, weighed in Friday, blasting the office’s “horrible history.”

According to Mr. Elias, Mr. Scott’s advantage has dropped from 56,764 votes on Election Night to 15,068 as of 10:30 a.m. Friday. That brings the results within the threshold that would require first a machine recount and then likely a hand recount, he said.

Florida machine recounts are triggered when the difference in votes is less than half or a percentage point. A hand recount kicks in at a quarter of a percentage point.

More than 8.5 million votes were cast in the Sunshine State’s Senate race Tuesday.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re within the recount,” Mr. Elias said.

The Scott campaign, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other GOP officials have bluntly stated the Democrats are trying to steal an election they lost.

They questioned the mysterious way in which more and more votes seemed to materialize in Broward Country well after the legal deadline for their counting had passed. At one point Thursday, an employee at an elementary school in the county reportedly found a forgotten box with a sign declaring “Provisional Ballots” taped on the side.

On Friday, the Nelson campaign filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida regarding the process.

Mr. Scott’s campaign says Mr. Nelson is trying to force election officials to count “ballots that were not legally cast.”

“They aim to disenfranchise law-abiding Florida voters by producing ballots out of thin air until they have enough to win,” Scott campaign chairman Jackie Schutz Zeckman said.

Ms. Snipes and canvassing board officials have been tight-lipped about their process, with Broward County thus far not even releasing figures for how many votes they have counted since the polls closed or how many they have left to count.

Mr. Rubio, among others, scoffed at that timeline, contrasting it with counties hammered less than a month ago by Hurricane Michael that have had no such post-election hiccups.

The process, the lawyers and the escalating tension are all reminiscent of the 2000 Florida recounts following the presidential election that year.

The Florida Supreme Court tried to keep that process continuing, but its efforts were curtailed by several U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including a 5-4 decision stopping the recount altogether.

While the stakes are enormous in 2018 for Florida and the candidates, the overall balance of the Senate will probably not be impacted. The GOP should keep its thin majority there on the strength of flipping Democratic-held seats in North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri and its near-certain victory in a Mississippi runoff next month, stacked against one Democratic gain in Nevada.

The Arizona Senate race remains undecided, although there Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has managed to overcome an apparent loss on election night and take a slim lead over Republican Rep. Martha McSally.

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