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Hung Mai appointed to Tampa Port Authority

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday the appointment of Hung Mai to the Tampa Port Authority.

Mai’s term begins this week and will run until Nov. 15, 2019.

The newest member of the Port Authority is President and CEO of H.T. Mai Inc., a civil engineering and consulting firm. He previously relocated from Vietnam as a refugee in 1978.

Mai received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Saigon and is a member of the Tampa Bay Aviation Association.

The Port Authority oversees Port Tampa Bay, located near Tampa’s Channel District and the largest port in the state of Florida. Mai’s appointment will fill a vacant seat.

Mai is a Republican activist in Hillsborough County. He has previously chaired the Hillsborough Diversity Advisory Council.

The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Cabinet meeting called off

A state Cabinet meeting scheduled for next week with relatively little notice has been canceled.

The meeting was scheduled to be held Tuesday by telephone and include two Florida Power & Light power-plant projects in South Florida.

But a note on the Cabinet webpage Wednesday said, “This meeting has been canceled.”

No reason was given.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The meeting was announced Monday and the agenda posted Tuesday morning.

Among the topics were plans by Florida Power & Light to build a 1,200-megawatt power plant in Broward County that has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club and a proposed FPL nuclear project at the Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County.

Scott and the Cabinet act as a state “siting” board with authority to decide whether power-plant projects should move forward.

In 2014, they approved FPL’s plans to add two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.

But the decision was overturned by the 3rd District Court of Appeal, as local governments argued the governor and Cabinet failed to use Miami land-development rules and erred in claiming they didn’t have authority to require transmission lines be installed underground at FPL’s expense.

Scott and the Cabinet are scheduled to meet Dec. 4.

Marco Rubio dials down tone in official comment on Florida recount

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has waded into partisan waters increasingly during Florida’s triple recount, as one might expect from one of Florida’s leading Republicans.

However, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that he offered comment from his official perch.

“I’m not against the recount. A recount is mandated by law and should happen. The recount should happen, and every legal vote should be counted, but what we should not see happen here is that somehow lawyers are able to find federal judges that change Florida election law after the election, go in and basically order the state of Florida to ignore its own laws,” Rubio said.

“You cannot change the rules of the game after the game in order to win, because that would be stealing an election and that would be unacceptable,” Rubio added.

Substantially, this is what Rubio has been saying all along. There was even a tweet for the game metaphor.

In terms of tone, however, Rubio shows a moderation in his official persona that he has not exhibited in media appearances, including television and social media.

On Twitter Tuesday, Rubio channeled his inner Donald Trump, as he bemoaned “incompetent law breaking election officials lead to chance for lawyers to steal an election” and warned of a “potentially deliberate effort to delay final count” in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Linking to an article from the New York Times that disparaged the Republican posture in the recount, Rubio lambasted “Left wing commentators” who “have no shame just making things up.”

In a press conference organized last week by the Rick Scott campaign, Rubio struck a similar tone of conspiracy.

“I’m concerned about everything, because when you don’t even know how many ballots are there, and they refuse to tell you how many ballots they have, or how many ballots need to be counted, or when they came, you have to be concerned about the whole thing,” Rubio said Friday. “You have to be, given what we have seen in the past. So I’m concerned about the whole thing. Absolutely.”

Report: Feds looking into changed dates on election docs

Federal prosecutors are examining date changes on “cure affidavits,” forms used to change information on ballots lacking such.

The Department of State, reports POLITICO Florida, has “concerns” that instructions put forth in four counties said these cure affidavits could be returned by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The law requires that these be handled by Monday before the election.

And said “concerns,” including in Broward County, stemmed from the Florida Democratic Party.

The Department of State quietly reached out to three federal prosecutors based in Florida last week saying that voters’ rights could have been affected by the bad intel:

“Altering a form in a manner that provides the incorrect date for a voter to cure a defect … imposes a burden on the voter significant enough to frustrate the voter’s ability to vote.”

An email from Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill that was obtained by POLITICO Florida described the process, part of a routine chase of rejected votes by mail.

The problematic and potentially illegal part: The “fact they actually changed one of the DOE forms.”

That concern was echoed by the Okaloosa SoE. The Democratic Party further told POLITICO this was a “distraction” from a “smooth recount.”

Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott’s senatorial campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee sued the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office for not allowing a designated representative for each group into the room where ballots are being recounted.

Both Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson have filed a series of lawsuits including one by Scott attempting to allow the state to take control of voting machines when they are not in use. That suit was rejected.

Nelson’s campaign filed lawsuits seeking to block canvassing boards from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots and another, which was denied, to extend the recount deadline. That deadline is Saturday.

Scott declared himself victorious in his U.S. Senate bid, but further counting of provisional and mail ballots put the two within a less than 0.25 percent vote margin, which triggers an automatic manual recount in all 67 Florida counties.

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Tampa Bay correspondent Janelle Irwin Taylor contributed to this post.

Rick Scott won’t take part in election certification, lawyer says

Gov. Rick Scott will sit out next Tuesday’s meeting of the state’s Elections Canvassing Commission, his attorney told a federal judge on Wednesday.

The news came during a conference call with Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in a case brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. They wanted Scott to recuse himself because he ran for U.S. Senate this election cycle.

General counsel Daniel Nordby told Walker that Scott would name an alternate to sit in for him at the meeting where the Nov. 6 election results will be certified.

State law says the commission “shall consist of the Governor and two members of the Cabinet selected by the Governor, all of whom shall serve ex officio.

“If a member of the commission is unable to serve for any reason, the Governor shall appoint a remaining member of the Cabinet,” the law says. “If there is a further vacancy, the remaining members of the commission shall agree on another elected official to fill the vacancy.”

Currently, the other members are Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, both term-limited.

The other Cabinet member who could step in is CFO Jimmy Patronis, who just won his first full term in this year’s election.

He’s also a Scott political ally, appointed by the Governor to serve the remainder of former CFO Jeff Atwater‘s second term. Atwater left office early to work for Florida Atlantic University.

Scott previously recused himself in 2014 when he won re-election against Democrat Charlie Crist, now a Congressman.

The Governor’s challenge of incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is in a machine recount; initial returns had him leading by a little more than 12,500 votes.

Rick Scott files recount lawsuit against Hillsborough elections supervisor

Gov. Rick Scott’s senatorial campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are suing the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office for not allowing a designated representative for each group into the room where ballots are being recounted.

The parties filed the suit Tuesday in the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County.

The lawsuit cites Florida law that “unambiguously entitles each candidate and each political party” one representative present in the room where the recount is happening.

The parties say their representatives have been forced to monitor the recount in a separate room behind glass “without the ability to hear what is transpiring in the recount room.”

The lawsuit requests an immediate injunction against Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer and his office forcing them to allow a representative for both Scott’s campaign and the Republican Party to be physically present in the same room where the recount is being conducted.

The lawsuit cites a Florida administrative code that defines entities allowed to have a representative present during a recount as “a candidate whose ultimate success or failure in the race could be adversely or favorably impacted by the recount.”

It adds that the political parties affiliated with candidates in partisan races are also entitled to a representative.

Another provision states: “Recounts shall be conducted in a room large enough to accommodate … the necessary number of counting teams, the canvassing board members and representatives of each candidate, political party or political committee entitled to have representation.”

The lawsuit was filed by an army of attorneys from GrayRobinson including Tim Cerio, Andre Bardos, Christopher Carmody Jr., George Levesque, Jason Zimmerman, Ashley Lukis, and Jeff Aaron.

Scott declared himself victorious in his U.S. Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, but further counting of provisional and mail ballots put the two within a less than 0.25 percent vote margin, which triggers an automatic manual recount in all 67 Florida counties.

Both Scott and Nelson have filed a series of lawsuits including one by Scott attempting to allow the state to take control of voting machines when they are not in use. That suit was rejected. Nelson’s campaign filed lawsuits seeking to block canvassing boards from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots and another, which was denied, to extend the recount deadline. That deadline is Saturday.

Statewide, more than 8 million ballots were cast in the race.

The Florida Governor’s race between presumptive winner Ron DeSantis and his opponent, Andrew Gillum, is also being recounted. A manual recount is also underway in the Florida Agriculture Commissioner race. Locally, Senate District 18 ballots are also being recounted.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Early recount totals show little change

Recounts wrapping up in small and mid-sized counties are showing few changes to initial results in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner.

But bigger counties still have until Thursday afternoon to complete the state-mandated recount process.

In Leon County, where elections officials completed running more than 140,000 ballots through tabulating machines Tuesday afternoon, the candidates in the major statewide races all lost several votes.

Recounted numbers in Citrus County found two additional votes each for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott and Agriculture-Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell.

In Alachua County, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s lead over Scott among county voters grew by 26 votes. Statewide, Nelson trailed Scott by 12,562 votes when unofficial results were posted Saturday from the Nov. 6 election.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, down by 33,684 in the unofficial statewide numbers, gained 12 votes in Alachua County in his race with DeSantis. And Democratic Agriculture-Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried, up 5,326 votes statewide on Saturday, gained 26 votes in Alachua County.

While political arguments and lawsuits have put the focus of the recount on Palm Beach and Broward counties, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said he doesn’t expect there to be “dramatic changes” in the statewide vote totals.

“That’s what I have seen borne out in most other recounts that I’ve been involved with,” Earley said. “Even in the 2000 recount, we didn’t have a lot of change, Leon County especially.”

In Leon County, Scott’s countywide total dropped three votes while Nelson’s support went down five votes. DeSantis lost five votes. Gillum lost six votes. Caldwell’s countywide number went down three. Fried lost four votes.

Earley said he expects those numbers will be made up by each candidate if a manual recount is called because of undervotes being set apart in machine counting.

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.”

If a manual recount becomes necessary, county canvassing boards examine the “outstacked” ballots.

Machine recounts were called for the three statewide races because each was within a margin of 0.5 percentage points or less when the unofficial results were posted.

County supervisors of election have until 3 p.m. Thursday to submit their machine recount numbers. Races with margins of 0.25 percentage points or less at that point will go to manual, or hand, recounts.

Florida Division of Elections spokeswoman Sarah Revell said the recount numbers won’t be posted for each county until after the Thursday deadline.

“We will post the second unofficial results all at one time on Florida Election Watch,” Revell said, referring to part of the division’s website.

Scott recount attorney Tim Cerio said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, 25 counties had completed recounting, and the process had started in all but Clay County, where 90,040 ballots were tabulated in the first unofficial totals.

Bill Nelson lawsuit asks federal court to waive recount deadline

Florida’s 67 counties should not have to sweat it out to meet Thursday’s and Sunday’s deadlines to recount last week’s contested statewide elections and instead should be allowed more time if they need it, argues a new federal lawsuit filed Tuesdeay by the U.S. Senate campaign of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, continues a theme Nelson’s campaign began Monday, arguing that the recount deadlines could become difficult for county canvassing boards, and they would rather have the boards have the time to do it right than cut corners or miss deadlines.

Earlier Tuesday Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s election team argued the opposite, that the election and the recount must proceed according to the law that everyone agreed to, and that any efforts to short-circuit that law, even through federal lawsuits, “is incredibly partisan and irresponsible.”

The new lawsuit from Nelson’s campaign suggests it’s likely that some counties may not be able to make the deadlines.

“What we are saying is all counties should be committed, understanding that they need to work expeditiously and they need to work under the statutory regime as it exists; but paramount to that is that they assure accuracy and completion in the work,” Nelson’s lead recount lawyer Marc Elias said in a news conference Tuesday evening. “And if that means they need to have some additional time they ought to be able to have that time to assure that everyone’s vote is treated equally and with equal dignity.”

In the final first-round count of the ballots, Scott lead Nelson by just ove 15000 votes. Nelson’s people are claiming that Scott’s team is fighting against Nelson’s efforts to get every ballot counted because Scott’s campaign fears Nelson will win if all votes are counted.

Elias argued Tuesday night that Nelson’s team just wants to give counties enough extra time to be careful, not some big, indefinate period. The matter, he argued, is for the canvassing boards to not feel pressured, which could lead some to get sloppy in vote counting, just because of what he called an “arbitrary deadline” set in Florida law, which he said has no practical affect on whether the winners will be able to take office in time.

Earlier, Elias had suggested that it should be no problems for counties to meet the deadlines provided they brought in enough equipment and people to recount.

On the other hand, if counties do not meet the recounts in time for the election, then the previous count must be counted. In that prevoius count, Scott wins.

The new lawsuit also argues that means that votes would be counted one way in some counties, and another way in others, making the process inherently unfair to some voters, “based on the accident of where they reside.”

“It doesn’t today look like any counties are very far behind the pace they need to be on. So it looks like it’s a matter of days versus weeks,” Elias said.

“I don’t think of this in terms of extensions,” he added. “I think of this in terms of giving counties the time they need to do their statutory obligations of counting the votes and counting it accurately.”

Machine recounts are underway now to recount all the votes in the U.S. Senate election, the Governor election, and the Agriculture Commissioner election. The counties recounts of their shares of the 8.2 million ballots in Florida must be finished by 3 p.m. Thursday. If any of those elections remains with a difference of less than 0.25 percent – and the lawsuit calls that prospect “an inevitability” in the U.S. Senate race – then the hand recount of ballots, checking to see if the machines got the voters’ intent right, must be done by noon Sunday.

The latest lawsuit is one of four Nelson’s team has filed in federal court. The others ask judges to invalidate Florida’s signature-comparison rules; to extend the period in which mail-in ballots could be counted, provided they are postmarked prior to the election; and to invalidate Florida’s rules on “voter’s intent” to allow for the counting of ballots that have different kinds of marks.

“We should all agree here, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, is have a complete and accurate count of all lawful ballots,” Elias said.

Rick Scott’s team has no interest in seeing recount deadlines extended

After Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and his team suggested there may be good reasons to extend recount deadlines if counties need more time to sort the U.S. Senate election, Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s team said not-so-fast.

Speaking for Scott, Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney insisted Tuesday that the recounts must proceed by law, a reference to the fact that Florida law requires the machine recounts to complete by Thursday, and for completion of the anticipated hand recount for the U.S. Senate race by Sunday. He was backed by Tim Cerio of GrayRobinson, one of the lawyers on the Scott campaign, who said that everything Scott’s campaign is doing in court is seeking to make sure current laws are followed.

Their comments come as Nelson is in Washington D.C. meeting with Democratic Senate leaders and as Scott prepares to go to Washington Wednesday to begin new-member orientation for the U.S. Senate, including sitting for the class photograph.

They were responding to comments Nelson’s made Tuesday, that, given Palm Beach County’s reported request to extend the deadline, that counties should be given more time if needed. Nelson’s statement reflected beliefs first expressed Monday by his recount lawyer Marc Elias, that counties should be given the time they need to count every valid vote, because the deadlines were recreated to meet federal mandates for presidential elections, but don’t have any practical use in a U.S. Senate election.

“I think it would be absolutely outrageous that once again in this country that we would ignore law,” Rooney said

Cerio jumped in and concurred, adding that he was not aware of any legal requests reported to be pursued by Palm Beach County to extend the deadline, but adding Scott’s team was “trying to nail that down.”

“The idea that deadlines don’t matter in elections is an incredibly partisan and irresponsible comment, and the Supreme Court has clearly stated otherwise. Deadlines are critical to the integrity of the election process,” Cerio said.

Rick Scott, Cabinet poised to take up FPL projects

Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet next week could sign off on a plan by Florida Power & Light to build a power plant in Broward County and will wade back into a dispute about an FPL nuclear project in Miami-Dade County.

Scott and the Cabinet released an agenda Tuesday for a Nov. 20 meeting that includes proposed “certification” of FPL’s plan for a 1,200-megawatt plant in Broward that has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club. Under state law, Scott and the Cabinet serve as a siting board that has authority to decide whether power-plant projects should move forward.

Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers in July issued a 129-page recommended order that urged Scott and the Cabinet to approve certification for the natural-gas plant, which would replace two older generating units at what is known as FPL’s Lauderdale site in Dania Beach and Hollywood. The Sierra Club raised a series of objections, focusing heavily on greenhouse-gas emissions that would come from the new plant.

But Sellers wrote that the new plant would be more efficient than the units it would replace and would help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions across FPL’s broader system.

“(The) competent, credible evidence showed that the operation of Unit 7 (the new plant) will reduce GHG emissions across FPL’s electrical power generating system because it will be operated more often than other, less efficient units, thereby displacing the use of those units across FPL’s electrical power generation system,” Sellers wrote.

The Broward County plan is one of a series of projects FPL has undertaken in recent years to build natural-gas plants and shut down older facilities. That effort has included projects at Cape Canaveral, Riviera Beach, Port Everglades and in Okeechobee County.

Scott and the Cabinet members — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are expected to meet Nov. 20 by telephone, according to the agenda published Tuesday. The meeting will come just hours after Scott and two Cabinet members, operating as the state Elections Canvassing Commission, are scheduled to certify the results of the Nov. 6 elections.

Along with the Dania Beach power plant, Scott and the Cabinet are slated to revisit a dispute about FPL’s plans to build two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County. In 2014, Scott and the Cabinet, acting as the siting board, approved the project.

But the 3rd District Court of Appeal sided with local governments and overturned the decision by Scott and the Cabinet. The court said, in part, the siting board failed to apply the city of Miami’s land-development regulations and erred by thinking it did not have the authority to require FPL to install transmission lines underground.

The ruling said the case should go back to the siting board “for further review consistent with local developmental regulations, comprehensive plans and the applicable environmental regulations.”

FPL took the transmission-line issue to the Florida Supreme Court, contending that the state Public Service Commission — not the Governor and Cabinet — has authority over decisions about installing underground lines. The Supreme Court, however, declined to take up the case.

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