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From recount to retirement? Brenda Snipes hints she may not run for re-election

Controversial Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is hinting she may step aside instead of run for re-election in 2020.

Snipes has held the position leading the county Supervisor of Elections office since 2003, when she was appointed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

She has gone on to win re-election several times since, running as a Democrat. But speaking to reporters Tuesday, Snipes hinted that it may be “time to move on.”

Asked whether she would seek re-election in 2020, Snipes said, “I’ll just check with my family.”

While she didn’t say one way or the other what she would decide, Snipes’ tenure has often been the focus of controversy, including in the aftermath of this year’s midterm elections.

The county has faced heavy criticism for its placement of the U.S. Senate race on the ballot.

The contest was located underneath the ballot instructions, prompting worry that many voters may have skipped the race, thinking it was part of those instructions. Analyses have shown this may have cost U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson thousands of votes in a race he’s currently losing by less than 13,000. That race is currently undergoing a recount.

Snipes’ office has also been ripped for its delays in counting votes. It also was ordered by a judge to turn over vote counts to the Rick Scott campaign in compliance with Florida law.

That’s not the first time Snipes’ office has been reprimanded by a judge. Earlier this year, a judge ordered the Department of State to send election monitors down to Broward County to watch this year’s elections.

That ruling came after Snipes office was found to have preemptively destroyed ballots from the 2016 contest in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.

Broward County began its recounts of eligible races on Tuesday morning. The deadline to complete those recounts is Thursday at 3 p.m.

Snipes expressed confidence Tuesday the county would meet that deadline.

Marco Rubio: Democratic lawyers working to ‘steal election’ in Florida

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was back on Twitter Tuesday, sounding the alarm about a potentially stolen election in South Florida.

“Incompetent law breaking election officials lead to chance for lawyers to steal an election Dem lawyers aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted. They’re here to get as many votes for their client as possible counted & get as many votes for opponent as possible thrown out,” Rubio tweeted shortly after noon Tuesday.

& are headed towards being only counties to not make deadline for machine recount Potentially deliberate effort to delay final count hoping a judge will order domestic vote by mail received after 7pm counted, in violation of state law,” Rubio added.

Rubio has aggressively messaged the Republican position in the ongoing recount drama, sounding similar concerns last week.

“Florida law requires counties report early voting and vote-by-mail within 30 minutes after polls close,” he wrote on Twitter. “Forty-three hours after polls closed two Democrat strongholds Broward County and Palm Beach County are still counting and refusing to disclose how many ballots they have left to count.”

While the race for Governor between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum sees a 0.41 percent spread as the machine recount progresses, the race for Senate is much closer (a 0.15 percent spread) between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

With an undervote in play in Broward County, the nation’s eyes will be on whether it can meet the Thursday at 3 p.m. deadline for results.

Rubio is skeptical.

Despite skepticism from many corners, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes claims that the deadline will be satisfied.

Rick Scott campaign taunts Bill Nelson for recount silence

During the campaign battle against Sen. Bill Nelson, Gov. Rick Scott‘s operation routinely chided the third-term Democratic incumbent for being “confused” or otherwise detached from what’s going on.

Remarkably, just two days after accusing the Nelson campaign of “fraud” on Fox News Sunday, Scott’s campaign is pivoting to a new message for Tuesday:

The Senator is barely providing evidence of his existence beyond “proof of life” videos.

This from spox Chris Hartline: “Where is Bill Nelson? What has his campaign been doing? You’ll notice, his campaign hasn’t been a party to any of the lawsuits filed by their side.”

(Incorrect, by the way. The campaign is co-plaintiff in the federal lawsuit over mismatched signatures. A hearing in that case is on Wednesday.)

“They’re filed by the liberal groups controlled by Chuck Schumer and the only person speaking publicly is his DC lawyer Marc Elias. We’ve seen some proof of life videos from Bill Nelson, but other than that,” Hartline added, “we have no idea where he is. Do you?”

Hartline contrasts Nelson, who “seems to have handed the reigns over to his D.C. lawyer,” with Scott “gearing up” to go to D.C. for “new-member orientation.”

This is quite the message evolution from Sunday.

“Sen. Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try and win this election,” Scott said on Fox News Sunday. “That’s all this is.”

Nelson has avoided the spotlight since a Friday afternoon statement released via video.

“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.

Multiple observers, including POLITICO Florida, have noticed the contrast between the comportment of Scott and DeSantis during the recount.

“These guys are going full crazy and there’s no need,” said one DeSantis insider to POLITICO. “It’s utterly unhelpful and pointless. We’re going to win. So why do this?”

With results of the machine recount due by 3 p.m. Thursday, the open question will be how the respective Senatorial campaigns react if a hand recount is mandated, as the spreads indicate would be the case in two of the three statewide races in machine recount currently.

Scott leads Nelson by 0.15 percent; A hand recount would be mandated at 0.25 percent or less.

Meanwhile, one potential explanation for DeSantis’ posture in the Governor’s race: With his spread at 0.44 percent over Andrew Gillum, the likelihood of a hand recount is minimal.

Bill Nelson’s attorney calls on counties to get time needed on recounts

Saying there’s no practical reason for the statutory deadlines that counties face to complete machine and hand recounts of last week’s election, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s lead vote-recount attorney said Monday he believes they should be given the time they need even beyond the deadlines.

Marc Elias told reporters that Florida’s law was not created with the intention of meeting rigid timetable requirements for the elections of a U.S. Senator or a Governor, and so, if counties need more time, the state ought to grant them waivers to make sure they have time to count every ballot.

The matter comes to the forefront Monday as all 67 counties launch a machine recount of three statewide elections, including that for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, in which Nelson trails Republican Gov. Rick Scott by just over 12,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast in the election.

The machine recounts are to be completed by Thursday. If the U.S. Senate race remains below the 0.25 percent difference threshold, and that race goes, as now expected, to a hand-recount, county canvassing boards have to finish that by Sunday. Already, there is grumbling that some might not make it, and one Democratic Florida House candidate Jim Bonfiglio has filed suit to get Palm Beach County’s deadlines extended.

“If they can’t meet the Sunday deadline, then that deadline ought to be extended,” Elias said. “And it ought to be extended to ensure that every vote is counted because obviously you would not want, of all places in America, Florida would not want different counting treatments in some counties than in others.”

If a county cannot meet its deadline, the state could revert the vote count from that county back to the most recent vote count, which would have been from the machine recount for that county.

“The current law in Florida was passed after 2000 and the deadlines put into the statute were put into statute because of the 2000 experience. … and the Electoral College rules. There is a safe harbor in federal law that basically says that if states get their results in by a certain time it is presumptively correct,” Elias said. “The good news is this is not a presidential election year and there is no federal safe harbor that is going to kick in in December. The swearing-in of the Senate doesn’t happen until early January. The swearing-in of the governor doesn’t happen until January as well, so we’re not under the kinds of time constraints that statute was drafted to address.

“So it is important that as everyone looks at the process from here forward that counties be given the opportunity to conduct this process in an orderly fashion, and, most importantly, in an accurate fashion,” Elias continued. “So the big counties are necessarily going to take more time than the smaller counties. And that isn’t because the bigger counties are less well-run or are prone to more errors. It’s simply because they are bigger. They have more ballots to process.”

In expressing that concern, Elias essentially changed his position a bit from a press call last week when he talked about county canvassing boards simply having to have enough people and machines on hand to meet recount deadlines. On Friday he said he had “every confidence that the counties would be able to do this.”

“The question of how quickly a county can recount ballots is a function of two things,” Elias said last Friday after he was asked if counties could meet the recount deadlines. “If you think of it as a pipe: you can lengthen a pipe or you can widen the pipe. So lengthening a pipe is just adding more days. As you point out, that is not a solution in Florida law.  So that brings us to the other option, which is you widen the pipe, right? You increase the number of people who are counting ballots.”

Elias also defended much of the litigation that has been brought in the U.S. Senate race, at least the litigation not brought by the Republicans. That includes the lawsuit filed Monday by the League of Women Voters of Florida and the ACLU demanding that Scott recuse himself from having anything to do with the recounts because he’s a candidate affected by them.

Elias charged that Scott has been interfering, through rhetoric, through intimidation actions such as saying he was asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigation allegations of voter fraud, and through litigation brought by Scott’s team seeking to impound ballots and machines in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Nelson’s team is not a party to the LWV/ACLU suit but supports it. Nelson made a similar demand earlier Monday.

Elias has repeatedly expressed confidence that recounts will favor Nelson and has charged that Scott is trying to discredit the process because of that likelihood.

“I think it ought to cause the people of Florida to be concerned that the Governor is not thinking clearly in executing his authority as Governor and that he is being clouded by his desire as a candidate to prevail in the election,” Elias said.

He also repeatedly refuted all the claims by Scott and other Republicans that there is any evidence of voter fraud contending that a judge ruled that Monday in Broward County and that the FDLE has concluded that as well.

“The fact is there is no evidence of fraud. Both judges and state law enforcement have said that,” he said.

Brian Mast defends Rick Scott, rips Bay Co. elections supervisor

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast had harsh words for missteps by various counties’ Supervisors of Election in a call to reporters Monday afternoon, including reports that Republican-leaning Bay County accepted votes by email and fax in opposition to Florida law.

Mast was speaking in defense of Gov. Rick Scott, and began by backing assertions that Scott would emerge the victor in his U.S. Senate race.

“No question this was a close race,” Mast said. “But it has been decisive as well.”

The latest tallies put Scott ahead of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes.

A recount is currently being conducted in that race, as well as statewide contests for Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.

Scott attorney Tim Cerio of the GrayRobinson firm, who was also on the call, said nine counties have finished their machine recount, while 14 counties have not started. The remaining recounts are in progress.

Mast said he’s already helping with the Scott transition team, as well as the transition of Florida’s tentative Governor-elect, Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by more than 33,000 votes at last count.

Mast also was outspoken about the process in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Both counties have earned heavy criticism for the way they have handled last week’s vote.

“One of the most frustrating things to me, personally, is when I see the law simply not being adhered to, court orders not being adhered to,” Mast said.

“We have laws in place for all elections at all levels so that we can try to ensure that people in our voting population can rely upon those laws and have confidence in that their vote matters.”

Mast is referring to Scott’s assessment that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher was flouting a court order last week. Bucher said she would not be able to meet a court deadline to submit “overvoted” and “undervoted” absentee ballots to the county’s canvassing board.

Republicans have openly criticized those two South Florida counties, even veering into conspiracy talk at times.

But Mast says criticism should be equally applied to Republican-leaning Bay County. Reports emerged Monday that the county ignored Florida law and accepted ballots by email and fax in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“It has to go either way, no matter whether it’s a Republican county or a Democrat county or a middle-of-the-road county,” Mast said of the criticism.

“For us to have that trust in the system, we have to be able to show that everybody is accountable to this and we’re not going to try to adjudicate elections based upon our party and how we can try to ignore some of these laws. That cannot be the perception for anybody on either side of the aisle.”

Mast, whose congressional district covers Palm Beach County, also ripped Bucher further over comments she would not be able to complete machine recounts by Thursday’s deadline, as the county’s equipment cannot conduct multiple recounts at once.

“When you have failures like this, and these failures have ripples that go across the entire state and the entire nation and diminish people’s faith in this system, that is one of the worst things that we can see happen,” Mast said, again emphasizing public faith in elections.

“That is, unfortunately, entirely preventable by good preparation. And this is where I think we’re seeing a failure to prepare for all of these possible contingencies when, in fact, that was their job to prepare for things like this. And that’s sad to see.”

Linda Stewart: Calm down and let the elections officers do their work

Railing against what they call a Republican effort to discredit recounts through legal intimidation and allegations of fraud, Democrats state Sen. Linda Stewart, Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and state Rep.-elect Anna Eskamani insisted Monday the process just needs to proceed now in calm and confidence.

“Calm down,” Stewart said Monday on the front steps of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, a hundred yards or so where the county’s recounts were underway Monday for Florida’s U.S. Senate, Governor, and Agriculture Commission elections and that of an Orange County Commission district. “Let them do their job and don’t be yelling ‘Fraud!’ because there’s no fraud.”

She, Smith and Eskamani suggested that all the talk in recent days about voter fraud are unfounded bluster, and all the lawsuits potential roadblocks to smooth recounts, and they blamed Republicans, though some of the lawsuits have been brought by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose election contest with Republican Gov. Rick Scott is emerging as the most contentious, with both sides plying the courts.

Stewart also suggested some counties might have trouble meeting vote recount deadlines but should be given the time they need.

“This is a very tedious operation. And it’s being done by professionals who have been doing this for years and years and years. There’s nothing nepharious about it. There’s nothing fraudelent about it. It just takes time,” Stewart said. “All we’re asking for is time and not to interfere with the process and allow it goes forward the way it goes forward, so every vote counts. And that’s all we’re asking for everybody to stand back, calm down and just allow us to move forward and get these votes forward.”

Eskamani renounced the growing level of anger she said she and Smith experienced over the weekend in Broward County.

Smith accused President Donald Trump of trying to intimidate Florida officials to just declare the election over and “declare his buddies the election winners.”

“We will be for protecting the integrity of our electoral system whether we are winning those elections or losing those elections. The integrity of our democracy matters and that is what we are fighting for,” Smith said.

Judge denies Rick Scott request for injunction against Broward County amid recount

A Broward County judge has denied a request from the Rick Scott team for an injunction to impound certain Broward County voting machines as the recount in the U.S. Senate race continues.

The term-limited Republican governor Scott is currently ahead, but in mandatory machine recount range, over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

According to Alex Seitz-Wald, an NBC News political reporter, Scott’s legal team said they were not attempting to interfere with the recount.

Instead, they asked that the ballots and voting machines remain impounded only when not being reviewed or used as part of the recount process.

Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter denied that injunction request, saying, “I don’t think I have any evidence to enter a mandatory injunction right now.”

However, Tuter did agree with Scott’s attorneys that additional protections be added to restore the public’s confidence in the recount process.

To that end, Tuter recommended adding three more deputies from the Broward Sheriff’s Office to oversee the work being done by the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office.

Brenda Snipes, who heads that office, has taken on heat since last Tuesday’s vote. Many have criticized the county’s slow process, while some Republicans, including Scott, have openly accused Snipes’ office of attempting to manufacture votes in a conspiracy to “steal” the elections for Democrats.

President Donald Trump has jumped on that bandwagon, saying on Twitter, “An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected” — though he did not offer evidence to underpin that claim.

He also alleged “large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere,” but didn’t explicitly say that fake ballots had, for example, been made.

Court proceedings under Tuter were set to reconvene at 1 p.m. Monday. Tuter also asked lawyers on both sides to “tamp down the rhetoric” regarding the recount.

“We have to be careful about what we say,” Tuter argued.

Bill Nelson calls on Rick Scott to recuse himself from any recount role

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t want his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott to have anything to do with the recount of their election.

On Monday Nelson called on Scott to recuse himself from “any role” in Florida’s recount process as the supervisors of elections across the state begin a mandatory machine recount of more than 8.2 million ballots cast in this year’s U.S. Senate election.

In a two-minute, 17-second video released Monday by his campaign, Nelson called for civility in the process, and charged that Scott is using his power as governor to undermine the voting process.

“He’s thrown around words like ‘voter fraud’ without any proof,” Nelson said. “He’s stood on the steps of the governor’s mansion and tried to use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Broward elections chief. He’s filed lawsuits to try to stop votes from being counted, and to impound voting machines. The reason he’s doing these things is obvious: he’s worried that when all the votes are counted, he’ll lose the election.”

Meanwhile, Scott’s campaign charged Monday that Nelson’s campaign’s latest legal actions are being undertaken to get illegally-submitted votes to be counted.

Nelson added that it is obvious to him that Scott cannot oversee the process in a fair and impartial way.

“And thus he should remove himself from any role in the recount process so the people can have confidence in the integrity of the election,” Nelson said in the video statement. “Given his efforts to undermine the votes of Floridians, this is the only way that we can ensure that the people’s votes are protected. “

Nelson added, “As the recount in the Senate race continues, we should have a common goal, and that is that every vote is counted and counted as the voter intended.”

Lawyer says Andrew Gillum mulling legal action amid Florida recount

On MSNBC Monday morning, Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum‘s recount attorney, Barry Richard, suggested the gubernatorial candidate was seriously considering legal action.

Host Hallie Jackson noted that some counties will struggle to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline for completing the recount.

Richard said that, if that happens, “the candidates involved have to decide which way to go.”

“I know that, in the case of Mayor Gillum, he has been reluctant to become involved in litigation,” he said. “But we are receiving an increasing amount of evidence that Florida’s effort to make the (elections) statutes more efficient has been done at the sacrifice of the fundamental right to vote.

“… He is reviewing his options,” Richard added, noting that Gillum has “always had the option” to file a lawsuit.

“Up until now, we have not been actively preparing to file one. But as of this morning,” Richard said, “we had a discussion in which he wants … advice regarding what options he has.

“What Mayor Gillum is concerned about,” he went on, “is whether or not it ultimately would affect his race, that he feels an obligation to ensure votes are counted, not to sit back when we are learning that they’re not being counted for a number of reasons. Not fraud, by the way, but the operation of the statutes.”

Gillum is down by nearly 34,000 votes currently.

“I don’t think he is being motivated right now by whether or not he will turn the election around,” Richard said. Rather, the concern is potential “disenfranchising of voters.”

Judge lays down law in Bill Nelson ballot lawsuit

A federal judge says he will subpoena Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley to testify at this Wednesday’s hearing in Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s lawsuit to count votes on provisional and mail ballots invalidated because of mismatched signatures.

“This court will elicit testimony from Mr. Earley to provide an example of one process a county supervisor of elections and county canvassing board use to determine whether a provisional or vote-by-mail ballot should be rejected for a signature mismatch,” Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in a procedural order entered Sunday night.

As of the first unofficial returns on Saturday, Nelson was behind 12,562 votes to Republican challenger Rick Scott — the state’s term-limited Governor — out of nearly 8.2 million cast. That margin of victory is within the 0.5 percent needed to trigger a statewide mandatory machine recount, which many counties began over the weekend.

Walker

“This court has done the same in the past and anticipates covering similar ground with Mr. Earley as it did in 2016 with the prior Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Ion Sancho,” he added.

That refers to a case resulting in his ordering that Florida voters be notified before Election Day and given a chance to prove who they are if their signatures on a vote-by-mail ballot did not match their voter registration forms.

As counties are starting or already in the middle of a mandated machine recount, Nelson’s federal lawsuit wants such mismatched signatures ballots to be counted.

Following Walker’s ruling, lawmakers passed and Gov. Scott signed into law a measure that lets voters “complete and submit an affidavit in order to cure (a) vote-by-mail ballot until 5 p.m. on the day before the election.”

But Nelson’s complaint against the state argues that rejecting ballots for mismatched signatures in the first place is unconstitutional.

That’s because it disenfranchises voters through a “demonstrably standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable signature matching process that has been shown to result in the disproportionate rejection of (vote-by-mail) and provisional ballots cast by ethnic and racial minorities, as well as young, first-time voters.”

Walker also directed Maria Matthews, director of the state’s Division of Elections, to be “prepared to discuss” several issues at the hearing:

— “Figures regarding the number of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that have been rejected in the 2018 General Election for having a mismatched signature, by county.

 — “Any guidance the Division of Elections provides to county supervisors of elections and county canvassing boards to use to determine whether a provisional or vote-by-mail ballot should be rejected for a signature mismatch.

— “Whether provisional or vote-by-mail ballots that have been rejected in the 2018 General Election for a signature mismatch have been segregated and thus are easily accessible.”

Walker also asked lawyers to argue whether a state law that “provides electors and candidates a mechanism to challenge ballots as allegedly illegal—but does not provide electors and candidates an opportunity to challenge rejected ballots as legal—violates the First and/or Fourteenth Amendments.”

This order expresses no view on the ultimate issues to be decided, instead simply provides notice so that each side may be heard and prepared,” Walker wrote. 

The hearing will be in Tallahassee’s federal courthouse at 1 p.m. Wednesday, the day before counties must turn in results of machine recounts to the state.

The previous judge assigned the suit, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, took himself off the case because his “brother is a party to a lawsuit involving (Gov. Scott).”

Walker, an appointee of President Barack Obama, earlier this year became chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, which includes the Panhandle and Big Bend.

Walker has a history of ruling against the state on voting rights: Besides his 2016 injunction on ballot signatures, earlier this year he told state officials to overhaul Florida’s process of restoring felons’ voting rights, a move later reversed by a federal appeals court.

And he granted a preliminary injunction in a federal lawsuit over the state’s prohibition on early voting at college and university campuses.

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