In Florida Recount, Sloppy Signatures May Disqualify Thousands of Votes

In Florida Recount, Sloppy Signatures May Disqualify Thousands of Votes

Rick Scott: Bill Nelson doesnt even know how Florida works

Scott, a Republican, is leading Nelson, a Democrat, by about 12,500 votes in the U.S. Senate election that is now undergoing a machine recount.

Nelson, the incumbent who has held the seat since 2000, has called on Scott to recuse himself from playing any role in the recount as governor.

We caught glimpses of this playbook — of dreaming up fraud where none exists — when Mr. Trump prejudged the outcome of the 2016 campaign, by calling the election rigged, refusing to say if hed accept a loss to his rival, and deputizing his supporters to police polling places in Democratic strongholds, like Philadelphia. Mr. Trump tried to keep this alive with his short-lived, fruitless commission to root out election fraud. (The vice chairman of that sham commission, Kris Kobach, just lost his race for governor in deep-red Kansas.)

I recused myself from certifying results on the Elections Canvassing Commission in 2014, and I will do so again this year, Scott said on Twitter. This is nothing new. Bill Nelson is confused and doesnt even know how Florida works — I have no role in supervising/ overseeing the ongoing recount process.

Not all Republicans have gone down this path. As the lead in a Senate race in Arizona swung back and forth over a few thousand votes, the president raised the specter of fraud. But candidates and officials in the Republican-controlled state stayed calm. And, when the result was clear, but some votes remained to be counted, the Republican candidate, Martha McSally, was a model of decency and dignity, congratulating her Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, on her victory.

Schumer predicts Nelson will continue being senator if every vote counted | TheHill

Elections are supervised at the county level. Nelson has criticized Scott for directing Florida law enforcement to investigate possible election fraud in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, where ballots have turned up after the election and election officials have resisted access to records and ballot counting.

The machine recount deadline is Thursday. Nelsons legal team is suing to extend that deadline and to count thousands of ballots tossed out due to mismatching signatures.

In Florida, no one has offered evidence of widespread election fraud, and the recount is mandated by law and was ordered by the Florida secretary of state. Yet Mr. Scott said of Bill Nelson, the three-term Democratic senator hes hoping to unseat, Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election.

MIAMI — It was only a week ago that Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida and candidate for the United States Senate, claimed on television that rampant fraud was perhaps imperiling his election to Congress, and that he was asking the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

ImageAriel DavisGiven the size of Rick Scotts lead in the race for a United States Senate seat from Florida and Ron DeSantiss lead in the race to be the states governor, most election experts agree theres little chance that even the most exquisitely careful recount would deny these two Republicans victory.

Earlier in the day, at the Georgia State Capitol, Secretary of State Brian Kemp defended his decision to oversee an acrimonious election in which he was a candidate for governor and, by his own preliminary assessment, a victorious one.

The elections in the Southeasts two most populous states remained undecided Wednesday, more than a week after the balloting, embroiled in lawsuits and accusations. Much of the turmoil is attributable to the high-profile political prizes at stake. But some can be traced to decisions by Mr. Scott and Mr. Kemp to mix, by design or duty, their public roles with their political lives.

Advocacy groups have also gone to court, seeking to force Mr. Scotts recusal from any role in election oversight. This is a sensible move. His alarmist stance, as opposed to the position of Mr. Nelson and the Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum, that all votes be counted, makes that clear.

That two powerful Republicans helped to oversee elections in which they had overwhelming personal interests prompted bipartisan misgivings, fueled some of the sparring that has spilled into the courts and intensified the most stinging criticisms of their campaigns. Their approaches to navigating the thicket of runoffs and recounts, litigation and delayed certifications, show that there is no set playbook for candidates whose political fates are up for grabs.

Sowing doubt in the integrity of the recount is part of a Republican strategy that involves lawyers and operatives on the ground, much like what happened in the 2000 election, and a preview of whats likely to happen leading up to the 2020 election.

The worst thing you can do is try to force a resolution politically rather than electorally, said Adam Goodman, a Republican political consultant who advised then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the Florida presidential recount in 2000. Those who are throwing politicized brickbats into the process are doing it — and every voter — a disservice.

By the time Mr. Kemp, Mr. Scott and their states entered the messy aftermath of Election Day, both men had been at the centers of two of the years most expensive and acrimonious campaigns. In Georgia, Mr. Kemp was seeking to extend the Republican Partys 16-year grip on power by defeating Stacey Abrams, his Democratic rival who was running to become the first black woman to be elected governor of any state.

In Florida, where Mr. Scotts eight years in power were rapidly drawing to a close, the governor mounted a vigorous campaign to unseat Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat and a wily survivor of his states unpredictable political landscape.

The counting itself, and not vote-rigging, seems to be the true catalyst of Mr. Scotts panic and at least five separate lawsuits: As of Sunday, his lead over Mr. Nelson had withered significantly.

Both Mr. Scott and Mr. Kemp have insisted they have taken strong lines to assure the lawful conduct of elections in their state not as politicians, but in their roles as elected officials. Our campaign has filed lawsuits to make sure that Florida law (which is designed to protect against fraud) is followed, a spokesman for Mr. Scotts campaign, Chris Hartline, said in a statement.

Mr. Kemp went so far as to resign as secretary of state — but only after the election, when he believed he had all-but-secured the governorship.

We need to be careful what we say, the judge, Jack Tuter, said. These words mean things these days, as everybody in the room knows.

The race for governor in Florida was bitter from the beginning, but it was not until last Thursday, with his lead over Mr. Nelson dwindling, that Mr. Scott adopted a tone that began raising alarm bells in Democratic circles. After months of campaigning in relatively measured tones, he leveled a series of accusations that implied his opponents had been engaged in fraudulent manipulation of the results.

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Every day since the election, the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere, he said, without providing any evidence. We all know what is going on. Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening.

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Mr. Scotts hard-line diatribe helped stir protests and trigger a series of Twitter outbursts from President Trump echoing the conspiracy theme.

But what raised the most objections from Mr. Scotts critics was his request two days after the election for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both elected Democrats. He did not instruct the department to act — he was speaking as a candidate, not as governor, and the department does not report to him alone — but the request brought strong criticism from Democrats, who accused Mr. Scott attempting to improperly interfere with the conduct of the vote-count.

Hes now taking a page from the playbook of the secretary of state of Georgia in an attempt to influence his own election, Commissioner Steve Geller of Broward County, a Democrat, said in a reference to Mr. Kemp. When youre the governor of the state and you say without evidence that theres fraud and you demand that the state agency investigate, its just way out of bounds.

The department declined to investigate immediately because no specific instance of possible fraud had been submitted, but said it would look into it if that changed.

More controversy arose when the Department of State revealed late Tuesday that it had asked federal prosecutors during election week to investigate whether the Florida Democratic Party had broken the law by sending voters — apparently most of them Democrats — incorrect information about how long they would have to resolve invalidated signatures on their mailed-in ballots.

In any case, by Wednesday, the governor was decidedly quieter. On a conference call with a federal judge, a lawyer for Mr. Scott said the governor had decided to recuse himself from the state canvassing board that is scheduled to certify the election results on Tuesday. The League of Women Voters, which sued Mr. Scott to force him to step aside from any matters involving the recount, insisted it wanted a neutral outsider appointed instead.

In Georgia, meanwhile, controversy surrounded Mr. Kemp and his role in the election as both gubernatorial candidate and secretary of state even before the polls opened.

Republicans had championed Mr. Kemp as an enforcer of Georgia elections procedures — he oversaw purges of the voting rolls and supported a tightening of registration rules — but Democrats argued that he was rigging the system to his and his partys benefit.

I certainly wasnt going to run from my job of making Georgia the most secure, accessible, fair state in the country for elections, and we have done our part to make elections more accessible, Mr. Kemp said last week. It was only then, once he was asserting himself as the governor-elect, that he announced his resignation.

By then, Democrats had long been leveling a barrage of criticism over his dual role. Their outrage has not abated.

We believe that Brian Kemp mismanaged this election to sway it in his favor, Ms. Abramss campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, said on Wednesday. She described Mr. Kemp as the secretary of suppression.

Mr. Kemps campaign rejected any such assertion and said that Ms. Abrams would stop at nothing to undermine democracy and attempt to steal this election.

Both Mr. Kemp and Mr. Scott still hold narrow leads, but the controversy that has swirled in the aftermath of both elections highlights how little public consensus there is about what, or how much, a candidate who already holds public office should say when an election is in dispute.

Many political strategists, indeed, have doubts about whether such public statements in the aftermath of voting are even useful.

Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, suggested that any public posturing by political campaigns had only limited influence.

The most important decisions, I think, are the legal decisions, Mr. Lieberman said. I honestly dont know what effect, if any, on the outcome of this recount that candidates speaking out will have, but it probably will affect the spirit of their supporters.

Marc Racicot, who was the Republican governor of Montana who spoke frequently on behalf of the George W. Bush campaign during Floridas notorious 2000 recount, said he urged candidates to remember that their words during election season would be remembered during their subsequent years as lawmakers.

Id try to advise all of them, Republican or Democrat, to stay focused on the kinds of things you want to exhibit if youre ultimately chosen as the candidate to become the officeholder, he said. If everyone starts undermining confidence in government from the very beginning, it doesnt serve us well in the short-run or the long-run.

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