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Here are the six Florida races with orders for recounts

After the drama of election night and fierce battles about counting votes, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Saturday ordered recounts in high-stakes races for U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture commissioner.

The orders, along with recounts slated in three legislative districts, were no surprise: State law requires “machine” recounts when the margins between candidates are 0.5 percent or less. As local officials continued to count ballots after Tuesday’s election, it became clear that all six of the races would fall under that requirement.

The machine recounts will play out over five days, with county canvassing boards required to report results by 3 p.m. Thursday. At that point, races with margins of .25 percent or less will go to manual, or “hand,” recounts.

Counties were required by noon Saturday to report unofficial results to the state. The races set for recounts are:

— The U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. In the unofficial results, Scott had 4,098,107 votes, or 50.07 percent, while Nelson had 4,085,545 votes, or 49.92 percent.

— The Governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum. In the unofficial results, DeSantis had 4,075,879 votes, or 49.59 percent, while Gillum had 4,042,195 votes, or 49.18 percent.

— The race for Agriculture Commissioner between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell. In the unofficial results, Fried had 4,030,337 votes, or 50.03 percent, while Caldwell had 4,025,011 votes, or 49.97 percent.

— The race in Hillsborough County’s state Senate District 18 between Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, and House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat. In the unofficial results, Cruz had 104,001 votes, or 50.09 percent, while Young had 103,625 votes, or 49.91 percent.

— The race in Volusia County’s House District 26 between Rep. Patrick Henry, a Daytona Beach Democrat, and Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff. In the unofficial results, Fetterhoff had 30,591 votes, or 50.05 percent, while Henry had 30,532 votes, or 49.95 percent.

— The race for an open seat in Palm Beach County’s House District 89 between Republican Mike Caruso and Democrat Jim Bonfiglio. In the unofficial results, Caruso had 39,228 votes, or 50.02 percent, while Bonfiglio had 39,191 votes, or 49.98 percent.

In a machine recount, all ballots are fed through voting machines. Ballots with “undervotes” or “overvotes” — in which voters may have skipped races or made extra marks in races, causing their ballots to be rejected by the machines — are set aside, or “outstacked.”

In races that go to manual recounts after the Thursday deadline, county canvassing boards will examine the “outstacked” ballots.

The results from the manual recounts must be provided to the state no later than noon on Nov. 18. Two days later, the state Elections Canvassing Commission, comprised of Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet, will meet in Tallahassee to certify the official election results.

Janet Cruz holds 376-vote lead on Dana Young as recount begins

Democrat Janet Cruz holds a 376-vote lead over Republican state Sen. Dana Young with all votes counted in Florida Senate District 18.

The recount for the race was ordered by the Department of State on Saturday.

Florida law calls for a machine recount if the difference between vote totals for candidates falls with 0.5 percent. If the margin there remains within 0.25 percent, a manual recount must take place.

The margin in District 18 comes in 0.18 percent.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office report a total 91,955 votes cast in the state Senate race. That’s with all provisional, early, vote-by-mail and precinct ballots counted.

The county could receive more overseas vote-by-mail ballots that arrive at the office within 10 days of Nov. 6 election, so long as the votes were sent before the conclusion of the election.

Cruz’s lead has grown since Election Day, when the Democrat held a lead of just under 300 votes.

She declared victory on Thursday after elections officials reviewed 653 additional ballots and added the majority of those to totals, which expanded Cruz’s lead.

But every vote cast in the election will be double-checked.

Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer says he expects to begin the recount process on Sunday, with orders to recount coming in Saturday.

Recounts are currently also underway for the U.S. Senate race, Governor’s election and Agriculture Commissioner contest.

Those races hinge on still uncounted votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties, but the Hillsborough race shows what degree of wiggle room exists with the numbers.

For example, Hillsborough elections officials accepted all 248 Election Day provisional ballots and 42 out 118 early voting provisional ballots.

The Cruz-Young race turned out to be the closest state Senate contest in Florida this year.

‘Enough is enough’: Lindsey Graham decries vote count ‘shenanigans’

On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned in a press call that attempts by Florida Democrats to steal the Florida election wouldn’t work.

“Enough is enough, and it’s time to declare Rick Scott the winner after the recount,” Graham said.

Graham had made similar comments on Fox News’ Hannity Friday.

“We believe Rick won fair and square,” Graham said, decrying “shenanigans” in Broward County.

“The activity I’m referring to is a flagrant violation of the law regarding reporting requirements,” Graham said, wondering if “incompetence” or “fraud” drove anomalies.

“How can it be that two, three days after the election, you report 78,000 votes more than what you reported on Election Day … the history of Broward County is unsavory at best,” Graham said.

“There’s a reason there’s a reporting requirement thirty minutes after polls closed,” Graham said, noting Broward and Palm Beach present “problems at every level.”

“These two counties … when it comes to these shenanigans, enough is enough,” Graham said.

“Broward County is in flagrant violation of Florida law. Same with Palm Beach,” Graham said.

“I hope people across Florida and the nation will take a look at what’s going on in Broward and Palm Beach County,” Graham said, before relating this somehow to the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Three statewide races are in recount territory.

Republican Rick Scott, for whom Graham campaigned, leads Bill Nelson in the Senate race by .16 percent (13,404 votes).

Republican Ron DeSantis leads Andrew Gillum by .42 percent (34,500 votes) in the Governor’s race.

Democrat Nikki Fried has a .06 percent (4,475 vote) lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Unofficial results are due at noon Saturday, and if these margins hold at under .5 percent, recounts will be in play.

Thursday at 3 p.m. is the deadline for the results of automatic recounts to be reported to the Florida Secretary of State.

If a difference is less than .25 percent, the manual recount scenario would be in play, with a deadline for this being Sunday Nov. 18.

Here’s the updated totals on Florida’s statewide races heading to recount

It’s official: three statewide elections today will head to machine recount.

The results of the machine recount in races for Senate, Governor, and Agriculture Commissioner are due by 3 p.m. Thursday to the Florida Department of State.

As it stands, Republicans lead in the Senate and Governor’s races, with Democrats poised to flip Agriculture Commissioner.

12:30

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Rick Scott holds a 12,562-vote lead over Democrat Bill Nelson, a 0.15 percent margin.

In the Agriculture Commissioner contest, Democrat Nikki Fried maintains a lead of 5,326 votes over Republican Matt Caldwell, a 0.06-percent difference.

And in the Governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis still leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes. That’s a 0.41-percent margin.

According to the Division of Elections, all counties have now completed early, vote-by-mail, and provisional ballot counts.

Broward County also reports on its own website that all early and absentee ballots have been counted. Palm Beach County on its website, however, reports it has not counted all absentees or provisional ballots, contrary to the Division of Elections website.

12:00 p.m.

As of noon, the Division of Elections reports Republican Rick Scott with a 13,407 lead over Democrat Bill Nelson for Senate, a 0.16 percent margin.

In the Governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis still leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 34,459 votes. That’s a 0.42-percent margin.

And in the Agriculture Commissioner contest, Democrat Nikki Fried maintains a lead on 4,485 over Republican Matt Caldwell, a 0.06-percent difference.

Florida law requires a machine recount for all races where the difference of votes between candidates remains within 0.5 percent of the ballots cast. A hand recount is triggered if the difference falls within 0.25 percent.

Matt Caldwell goes to court as ballot count continues

Matt Caldwell, the Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, and his campaign filed a lawsuit Friday against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes that calls for the rejection of all vote-by-mail ballots received at the elections office after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed in Broward County circuit court, said Snipes hasn’t released numbers of ballots that came in after the deadline and asks the court to determine if Snipes illegally included ballots after polls closed Tuesday.

On election night, Caldwell declared victory as numbers posted by the Division of Elections showed him ahead. But as county supervisors continued to review ballots, the margin narrowed and by Thursday afternoon flipped in favor of Fried. The Democrat was up by a little more than 3,000 votes Friday afternoon, with a recount expected to be required after unofficial results are sent to the state Division of Elections by mid-day Saturday.

“On Tuesday, the voters of Florida elected Matt Caldwell as our next commissioner of agriculture,” Caldwell spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez said in a statement. “We are committed to upholding the will of the voters and protecting the integrity of Florida’s electoral process from those seeking to erode our democracy.”

The lawsuit came a day after Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit against Snipes that contended the Broward elections office was unwilling to disclose records revealing how many people had voted, how many ballots had been canvassed and how many remained to be canvassed.

In addition to the lawsuit, Caldwell filed a public-records request seeking vote counts and any communications between Snipes, her executive team, her staff and any third parties talking to the county about counting ballots. He also is seeking an injunction that would limit the Broward elections office to counting only vote-by-mail ballots received by 7 p.m. Tuesday and to void those received after that time.

Rhetoric heats up as recounts loom

The rhetoric in Florida continued to elevate Friday as vote margins dwindled in three statewide races, including the contests for U.S. Senate and governor, and recounts seemed all but certain.

In a conference call with reporters hosted by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio Friday night joined a growing chorus of Republicans bemoaning the influx of outside legal staff coming into the state to help “steal” the election.

Scott has watched his 56,000-vote advantage over incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson shrink since election night. By Friday evening, the Republican’s edge had dwindled to less than a 15,000-vote lead.

Rubio labeled Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes’ office the worst in the nation.

“If it’s not the worst elections department in America or the worst-run elections department in America, I would hate to see the one worse run than this department,” Rubio said, noting that Broward elections office has been plagued by problems for years.

Ballot reviews continued Friday in Broward and Palm Beach counties’ elections offices, and judges in the two counties have backed Scott’s campaign in lawsuits demanding that the supervisors provide more voter information.

Snipes’ attorney, Eugene Pettis, told The Palm Beach Post that the elections chief never refused to deliver the records to Scott, she simply needed a “reasonable” amount of time to do so.

“Dr. Snipes has never told them she would not provide the information. They just delivered it 26 hours ago,” Pettis told the Post. “The backdrop of this is that Gov. Scott does not believe that it’s moving fast enough. That’s what he said on TV. That it’s not moving fast enough therefore they’ve intervened to speed this up. That’s inappropriate.”

A Democrat, Snipes was first appointed to the position in 2003 by former Gov. Jeb Bush, after he removed her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant. Snipes has been re-elected four times.

Republicans have blasted the two Democratic havens as vote margins in Broward and Palm Beach counties have narrowed in the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner races in the days following the election.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher called it “unfortunate that some of the highest elected officials in our country are trying to disrupt our democracy because they don’t like the demographic of our voters.”

She declined to clarify what demographics the elected officials disliked.

Rubio’s call came shortly after incumbent Nelson chimed in publicly for the first time since Tuesday. In a video, Nelson accused Scott of “abusing the full force of his public office as governor to stop a complete and accurate counting of all the votes in Florida — which would determine whether he wins or loses.”

Scott “has decided to abandon the most fundamental of all rights, because he fears that he will lose the election if all the votes are counted,” Nelson said.

“He isn’t telling the truth, which is: votes are not being found; they’re being counted. We will continue to ensure that this election is conducted fairly, the rule of law is followed, and the democratic process is fulfilled,” he went on.

Nelson was reacting to Scott’s lawsuits and to the governor’s request that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement look into fraud at both county elections offices. An FDLE spokeswoman on Friday said the agency is working with the Department of State but does not have any active election-related investigations “at this point.”

Earlier Friday, Nelson’s recount attorney Marc Elias compared Scott’s use of the state law enforcement agency to a “third world dictatorship.”

Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, was in Broward County Friday as part of Scott’s team.

He called for Scott to immediately suspend Snipes for the current problems as well as for past infractions, which include the posting of primary election results before the polls closed in 2016; destroying ballots prematurely in a contested 2016 race; and, earlier this year, opening mail-in ballots before the canvassing board was able to determine their validity.

“She has failed to follow state transparency laws during this election, and has a long history of misconduct, including preemptively destroying ballots,” Gaetz tweeted.

Tim Cerio, a former general counsel for the governor who has been brought on by the campaign as part of a recount legal team, said removing Snipes from office is not under consideration at this time.

But Rubio said Snipes should be a “candidate for removal” due to the damage she’s done to the credibility of the election process. However, Rubio said such action should occur after the current voting process is done.

“This is not one bad cycle, this is a pattern of courts finding them to be in violation of the law,” Rubio said.

County canvassing boards have until noon Saturday to submit unofficial totals from Tuesday’s election. Shortly afterward, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Scott, is expected to announce which races are within the 0.5 percent margin requiring a machine recount. Contests found after the machine recount to be within a 0.25 percent margin will undergo a manual recount.

As of Friday, the closest of the statewide contests was the race for agriculture commissioner, with Democrat Nikki Fried of Fort Lauderdale holding about a 3,000-vote lead after trailing Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell by nearly 41,000 votes Tuesday night.

Caldwell filed a lawsuit Friday against Snipes that calls for the rejection of all vote-by-mail ballots received at the elections office after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

In the governor’s race, former Congressman Ron DeSantis was ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by more than 36,000 votes Friday night. Gillum conceded to DeSantis on election night, when he trailed his Republican opponent by 78,000 votes.

Judge sets hearing in case over ballots with mismatched signatures

After a brief scheduling call Friday afternoon, lawyers will be in court Wednesday to argue for and against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s lawsuit to count provisional and mail ballots invalidated because of mismatched signatures.

And it only took a short while before Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle brought up the specter of Bush v. Gore.

Nelson this week filed in federal court in Tallahassee for court orders allowing such ballots to be tallied in his race with outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

There is some precedent: For example, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in 2016 ordered the state to notify voters if signatures on a vote-by-mail ballot and their voter registration forms did not match. The idea was to give those people an opportunity to prove who they were before Election Day.

Nelson’s suit bemoans “election officials’ subjective determination that the signature on the voter’s ballot does not match the voter’s signature in the precinct register.” The case is against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections officer.

Those “entrusted with the fate of a provisional or absentee voter’s ballot are not trained in signature verification, nor do they follow any pre-determined standards or other regulations that ensure accurate, uniform processes when comparing signatures,” according to a legal memo filed in the case.

“Rather, they employ a litany of procedures … using their collective best judgment as to what constitutes a signature match,” it said.

Hinkle

Nelson attorney Uzoma Nkwonta told Hinkle that his client “wants a resolution as quickly possible,” noting Saturday’s noon deadline for county elections supervisors to turn in “unofficial” results to the state.

“The object of the endeavor is to get this right,” Hinkle said, rather than rush to judgment. “It’s far more important to do this well.”

After allowing lawyers from various parties — including the Attorney’s General’s office — to augment their filed briefs, Hinkle set a hearing for 1 p.m. Wednesday in his Tallahassee courtroom. That’s the day before machine recount returns would be due, assuming one in the Senate is triggered.

Hinkle telegraphed at least one issue when he asked about the mechanics of how officials tell voters whose ballots were rejected that they can “cure” their ballots by showing they’re the same person who registered.

It varies among counties, he was told, with smaller, rural areas having more “personalized” ways, and others using email.

The judge was concerned about “how that squares with Bush v. Gore,” he said. He didn’t get an answer.

__

Updated 9 p.m. — Hinkle issued a scheduling order late Friday, noting that Walker’s previous order and “now a state statute provide a limited right to cure a rejection.”

He refers to a measure (HB 105) introduced by then-state Rep. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, passed unanimously by lawmakers and signed into law by Scott in 2017 that applies to vote-by-mail ballots with mismatched signatures.

It allows a voter “to complete and submit an affidavit in order to cure the vote-by-mail ballot until 5 p.m. on the day before the election.”

“The plaintiffs assert that, if a preliminary injunction is not entered by (noon Saturday), votes by mail will be unconstitutionally rejected,” Hinkle wrote. “But if there has been a constitutional violation—a proposition the defendant and intervenors do not accept—the ability to remedy the violation will not end on (Saturday).”

He did not alter the hearing previously set for Wednesday: “The plaintiffs will suffer no irreparable harm before their motion can be addressed on the schedule established by this order.”

Cruz, who exited the House this month as Democratic Leader, is now locked in a struggle for her own potential recount in her race with incumbent GOP state Sen. Dana Young for the Senate District 18 seat.

As of Friday night, according to the Division of Elections, she led Young 104,001 votes to 103,625, a difference of 0.18 percent.

Election experts say process working amid furor

The lawsuits piled up and the finger-pointing escalated Friday as Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s slim lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson continued to shrink.

While some elections supervisors tallied remaining votes, a recount appeared almost certain in the Senate race, which Scott led by 56,000 votes on election night. The Republican’s advantage dwindled to about 15,000 votes — out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast statewide — by Friday, well within the 0.5 percent margin requiring a machine recount.

Watching his lead shrink, Scott accused elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties of “incompetence” and fraud.

But elections experts say the process is working exactly how it is designed under a state law that gives county supervisors until noon Saturday to submit their preliminary, unofficial results to the Florida Division of Elections.

“The final results are not election night,” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told The News Service of Florida on Friday. “The final results are due from Florida 12 days after the election.”

The supervisor spoke to reporters shortly before a 1 p.m. meeting of the county canvassing board, comprised of a judge, a county commissioner and Earley. Like other canvassing boards, the panel makes decisions about mail-in ballots and provisional ballots and plays a significant role in hand recounts.

Voters in Florida can cast ballots in a variety of ways. They can vote by mail, cast ballots in person during an early-voting period in the two weeks before the election, or they can vote on Election Day. Voters whose eligibility is in question or whose information cannot be verified on Election Day can cast “provisional” ballots, which have to be scrutinized by local officials and may also need to be validated by county canvassing boards.

After the unofficial results are submitted to Tallahassee by mid-day Saturday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will determine whether any of the races fall within the 0.5 percent margin requiring a machine recount.

In a machine recount, all of the ballots are fed through voting machines. Ballots with “undervotes” or “overvotes” — in which voters may have skipped a race or made extra marks in races, causing their ballots to be rejected by the machines — are set aside, or “outstacked.”

Under state law, machine-recount results are due to the state by 3 p.m. on the ninth day following the general election, which is Thursday. Those are considered the “second unofficial results” of the election.

If Detzner determines that any of the races are within a 0.25 percent margin, he must order a manual, or hand, recount.

In a manual recount, county canvassing boards examine the “outstacked” ballots.

“The whole purpose of this is to look for voter intent. Just because a machine doesn’t see a vote doesn’t mean that human eyes won’t see a vote,” Earley said.

The results from the manual recounts, called “official returns,” must be provided to the state no later than noon on Nov. 18 — 12 days after the election.

Two days later, the state Elections Canvassing Commission, comprised of Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet, will meet at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee to certify the official election results.

Earley’s long-serving predecessor, Ion Sancho, said Florida’s law anticipates that it takes time for elections supervisors to finalize their vote tallies, hence the 12-day window before the results are finalized.

Ballots can be damaged in the mail or at home by voters before being sent to the elections office. Elections workers have to replicate the damaged ballots, so they can be read by voting machines, which then have to be examined by county canvassing boards, according to Sancho.

That’s a painstaking, time-consuming process, he said.

“Votes are not being manufactured out of nowhere. This is a process that a Republican Legislature, a Republican Governor and a Republican Secretary of State have developed since 2002,” Sancho, who served as Leon County elections supervisor for nearly three decades before retiring two years ago, told the News Service.

Much of the current consternation about Florida’s election is focused on Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, whose office was still processing ballots Friday. The results of those ballots were largely responsible for narrowing the gap between Scott and Nelson, whose lawyer, Marc Elias, predicted that the margin in the race would continue to evaporate as more provisional ballots are tabulated.

According to Snipes’ website, her office had not completed counting ballots that were cast during the early-voting period, which ended Sunday. But she has not said how many ballots remain outstanding, and she’s facing lawsuits from Scott and Matt Caldwell, a Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner who saw his 4,000-vote election-night lead reversed. By Friday afternoon, Caldwell’s opponent, Democrat Nikki Fried, held a 3,000-vote advantage.

“Certainly, there are hiccups here and there. It’s a very complicated process. When I start talking about how recounts work, or just tabulation in general, I always see people’s eyes roll into the back of their heads. But it’s those details that you’ve got to get right. Sometimes it takes time. I don’t think that anything nefarious is happening down south, but it may have been organized better,” Earley said.

Late Thursday evening, Scott told reporters he asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the elections offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties. FDLE is working with Detzner’s office and “will investigate any allegations of criminal activity or fraud,” agency spokeswoman Gretl Plesinger said in an email Friday afternoon.

“We do not have an active investigation at this point,” she said.

Broward voters have the power to do something about it if they are unhappy about their elected supervisor, Sancho said.

“The Broward County supervisor of elections, at age 72, was re-elected to another four-year term. The voters made that decision. They have to live with it. Votes matter. If people want the elections procedure to work better, then perhaps they should really look at the candidates who are running for supervisor,” he said.

As Nikki Fried expands lead, Matt Caldwell sues Broward elections supervisor

North Fort Myers Republican Matt Caldwell continues to lose ground in the Agriculture Commissioner race to Democrat Nikki Fried. The current deficit is over 3,000 votes.

However, for Caldwell there is a caveat. And that caveat rests in potential vote count rigging.

On Friday, Caldwell’s campaign filed legal action against the Supervisor of Elections in majority Democratic Broward County, saying absentee ballots may have been accepted after the polls closed.

Broward, with a history of elections irregularities, has been on fire for Fried: as of 3 p.m. Friday, she led Caldwell by over 234,000 votes in the South Florida stronghold.

The suit, filed in the 17th Judicial Circuit, requests protection of “the integrity of all ballots and all public records” including “all vote counts and any communications between Snipes, her executive team, her staff, and any third parties talking to the county about counting ballots.”

“The suit asks the court to determine if Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes illegally included ballots after polls closed on Tuesday, November 6 and if so, to remove those votes from the electoral tabulation,” asserts a media release from the Caldwell camp.

The election complaint noted that “Snipes held a news conference on November 8, 2018. Despite being questioned about the counting of absentee ballots, she would not confirm the number of absentee ballots that remain to be counted. No information has been provided that confirms that only absentee ballots being received by 7 p.m. on November 6, 2018, were being counted.”

“Broward County inexplicably still has yet to complete the vote-by-mail ballots and early-voting ballots three days after Election Day,” the complaint added.

“Brenda Snipes’ office has a record of gross incompetence and illegal behavior. Given the length of time it has taken her office to count votes and the history of Snipes’ past violations, we have concerns the law is not being followed. We want to ensure every legal vote is counted and that we have a forensic reconstruction of when ballots were cast and how,” said Caldwell campaign spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez.

“On Tuesday, the voters of Florida elected Matt Caldwell as our next Commissioner of Agriculture. We are committed to upholding the will of the voters and protecting the integrity of Florida’s electoral process from those seeking to erode our democracy,” Alvarez added.

Caldwell’s umbrage was not over, however. His campaign blasted Broward announcing over two thousand more vote by mail ballots to be counted.

“After announcing last night that they had completed counting vote by mail ballots, it is absurd and outrageous that Brenda Snipes now says there are 2,100 more mail ballots that need to be counted in Broward County. Not only that, her office still cannot answer basic questions about how many early votes remain uncounted. The lack of transparency or competence in the Broward Supervisor’s handling of this election is astounding,” asserted a campaign spokesperson.

“This news comes on the heels of a judge ruling Snipes’ office violated public records laws and must immediately allow inspections of all records and no spoliation of records by 7 pm tonight. When does it end? Florida voters deserve better. Matt Caldwell is committed to upholding the integrity of our electoral process,” Caldwell’s campaign added.

Supervisors of elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties have been ordered to turn over records regarding the number of ballots cast in their respective areas following a pair of lawsuits by the Rick Scott for Senate campaign.

Brenda Snipes’ office in Broward has until 7 p.m. Friday evening to turn over those records.

If Fried wins, she could be the only Democrat in the Florida Cabinet, as thus far the rest of the Republican slate all leads its Democratic competition.

Bill Nelson accuses Rick Scott of abusing power to stop votes from being counted

Making his first appearance since the election – and doing so only by video-download, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson accused his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott of abusing power to stop votes from being counted, and Nelson vowed to not let that happen.

In a video statement downloaded via satellite or through YouTube, Nelson charged that Scott is not telling the truth when he talks about votes being “found” and he said the governor was seeking to discredit the votes or prevent them from being counted.

“I won’t stand for anyone using his position to undermine our democratic process, and neither should the people of Florida,” Nelson said. “It’s wrong and it goes against every value that we have in our country.

“Scott is abusing the full force of his public office as governor to stop a complete and accurate counting of all the votes in Florida – which would determine whether he wins or loses,” Nelson said.

Usually one of the most accessible politicians in Florida, Nelson has not appeared publicly or spoken directly with the media since before the election.

In fact, he did not even make an appearance Tuesday at his own Election Day party, sending campaign staff members out to appear on his behalf, although that evening was a certain downer for him as it ended with news that he was down 60,000 votes, and some media were calling the election for Scott.

The margin in the race has since dropped to less than 15,000 votes, about 0.18 percent of the 8.17 million votes cast, meaning the election apparently is headed for a by-hand recount next week.

Key to that has been the counting of votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where several thousand votes were not tabulated on Tuesday and are being counted now.

In a press conference he held Thursday night at the Florida Governor’s Mansion, Scott alleged the votes were myseriously found, openly accusing the counties of coming up with them through partisan-fueled election fraud, and that they could be expected to find votes more until Nelson wins.

Scott’s campaign has filed suits against the supervisors of elections in both counties, seeking information about the late votes and court orders about how they should be handled. The campaign also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate criminal fraud. But that department, seeing no concrete allegations, has declined.

Still, Friday afternoon Scott won a preliminary decision in one of his lawsuits, which will require Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher to submit “overvoted” and “undervoted” absentee ballots to the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board for an open and public review of each vote before they are counted.

Nelson, through his campaign and his campaign’s attorney, Marc Elias, has contended that all of the votes were legally cast and so they should legally be counted, regardless of how it is done.

Elias has contended in two press conference calls that he believes the trends, through recounts, will end with Nelson ahead, and that he believes that Scott and his campaign suspect the same thing.

“This process is about one thing: making sure that every legal ballot is counted and protecting the right of every Floridian to participate in our democracy,” Nelson opens in the video. “No one should stand in the way of the people of our state exercising their right to vote and to have their voice heard.

“Clearly, Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted and he’s impeding the democratic process. You can see this from his irresponsible, unethical and unprecedented press statement last night that he’s worried and he’s desperate,” he ontinues. “The reason why he feels that way is obvious: we believe when every legal ballot is counted we’ll win this election.”

Nelson’s video statement Friday is his first, other than written statements released by his campaign.

“The governor has decided to abandon the most fundamental of all rights, because he fears that he will lose the election if all the votes are counted. He isn’t telling the truth, which is: votes are not being found; they’re being counted,” he added.

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