Judge doesn’t yet rule in Bill Nelson lawsuit to extend election deadline; sets hearing for Wednesday

By: and - November 9, 2018 12:05 pm

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Update: Please see our update to this ever-changing story here.

Attorneys for Bill Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida have filed a lawsuit in federal court calling on the Florida Secretary of State’s office to extend the certification deadline on the results from Tuesday night’s election, which is scheduled to be certified by noon on Saturday.

Meanwhile President Donald Trump told reporters today that he may get the federal government involved: “I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”

Trump campaigned for Rick Scott and gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (whose race is also headed for a recount), and the president is making repeated accusations about the close Florida elections, including calling it “another big corruption scandal.”

Nelson is currently trailing Governor Rick Scott in the race for U.S. Senate by 15,068 votes, or 0.18%, which would easily trigger an automatic machine recount that could begin as early as Sunday morning.

If the margin remains below .25% after the machine recount, a manual recount would follow, beginning next Thursday.

When Scott declared victory early Wednesday morning, he led by about 57,000 votes.

Local canvassing boards in all 67 counties in Florida are reviewing provisional and vote-by-mail ballots (VBM)  on file with their various local supervisor of elections up until that deadline on Saturday.

The suit charges that in deciding whether to accept and count these ballots or reject them, “local canvassing boards will engage in a demonstrably standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable signature matching process that has been shown to result in the disproportionate rejection of VBM and provisional ballots cast by ethnic and racial minorities, as well as young, first-time voters.”

A study released in September by the ACLU of Florida and University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith found that vote-by- mail ballots cast by younger voters and people of color are disproportionately rejected by local supervisor of elections offices.

Marc Elias, Nelson’s Washington-D.C.-based attorney who has represented prominent Democrats in previous recount situations, said on a conference call on Friday that those provisional ballots taken as a class across all counties “will be more Democratic and we will therefore see the overall margin narrow.”

The Scott campaign fired back, saying that up until now the Nelson campaign had been working on “voter fraud behind the scenes in secret” but they are now asking courts to “overrule election officials and accept 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,” said Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schutz Zeckman. “We will not allow them to steal this election.”

On Thursday night, Governor Scott charged that  there could be “rampant fraud” taking place in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, prompting him and the National Republican Senate Committee to file lawsuits against those two counties.

In his remarks in front of the governor’s mansion Thursday night, Scott charged that, for the past few days, “the leftwing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere. We all know what is going on. Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding more votes until the elections turn out the way they want.”

Scott also said that he was calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to “immediately” investigate the situation in Broward and Palm Beach, prompting Democrat attorney Elias to remark that “this is not a third world dictatorship.”

“I certainly respect the governor’s right as a candidate to voice his views and to express the concerns that he did that he is on a trajectory to lose a close election, but it not appropriate for the governor of any state to suggest he is going to use the powers of the state as governor to interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been lawfully cast.”



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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.