After two days of watching his U.S. Senate lead slowly wane, Gov. Rick Scott is suggesting two South Florida counties are actively engaging in partisan-fueled election fraud.
The Governor has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Broward and Palm Beach counties’ Supervisor of Elections, calling them a “rag-tag group of liberal activists.”
“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said during a Thursday evening news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.
Scott’s comments came as his campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The lawsuit, which seeks an immediate hearing, contends her office continues to withhold crucial voter information and has blocked access to the office.
The campaign also filed a separate lawsuit against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, accusing her of refusing to allow Scott’s representatives to personally witness the ballot counting. The suit, filed in Palm Beach County, also accuses Bucher of keeping the county canvassing board from performing its duties.
Scott noted that counsel hired by his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is an election lawyer with a history of working for the Democratic Party. He accused Nelson’s attorney of being willing to break laws to win the election.
Marc Elias, Nelson’s attorney, said Wednesday that the campaign is pursuing a recount “not just because it’s automatic, but we’re doing it to win.”
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Thursday that Scott’s newly announced investigation and comments appear “to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”
“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” he added.
Scott said every voter should be concerned of “rampant fraud” in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Snipes has “a history of acting in bad faith,” Scott said. He listed a series of problems in years past with elections — all under Snipes’ tenure. Scott noted that earlier this year a judge found Snipes had engaged in unlawful ballot destruction during the 2016 Democratic primary.
“Every day since the election, the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere,” Scott said.
Out of Florida’s 67 counties, only Broward and Palm Beach were “mysteriously” finding more ballots, he added.
Florida Politics reported an influx of ballots from Suwannee County were posted to the state Division of Elections website earlier Thursday.
Scott did not rule out “incompetence” as a causal factor of ballots adding up after Tuesday’s election. He said he is confident in FDLE’s ability to determine whether any intentional wrongdoing occurred.
“I am considering every single legal option available,” Scott added.
Overall, Scott’s criticism echoed tweets from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday. The Florida Republican has already congratulated Scott on a victory.
“Florida law requires counties report early voting and vote-by-mail within 30 minutes after polls close,” Rubio 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.”
“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency,” Scott said. “The supervisors are failing to give it to us.”
Currently, Scott leads Nelson by just more than 15,000 votes, or 0.17 percent. A hand recount in Florida is triggered when the difference reaches one-quarter of 1 percent of the vote, or about 20,413 ballots in this contest.
If the contest’s spread remains below that level, the hand recount would be announced on Saturday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and hand recounting would start on Monday and run through Nov. 18.
There still are more ballots to be counted, including provisional ballots and other ballots that were set aside because of anomalies on Tuesday. They are now being counted by the election canvassing boards in each of Florida’s 67 counties.
President Donald Trump, who supported Scott during the election, weighed in late Thursday.
Florida Politics Orlando correspondent Scott Powers and the News Service of Florida contributed reporting.