Will Bill Nelson win? His attorney says that’s what Rick Scott must think

Bill Nelson

“Don’t just listen to me, listen to Republican Gov. Rick Scott

That’s what Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s attorney said Friday morning when asked why he appeared so confident Nelson would eventually win Florida’s contested U.S. Senate election if it goes to a recount.

“I do think that his, the tone and tenor of his behavior last night is not suggestive of any campaign that believes it is winning. So if you want to know why I think this race is tightening, look at the behavior of your Governor. He had a hastily called press conference. He himself said that as ballots are being counted it is tightening,” Marc Elias, lead recount attorney for Nelson’s campaign said during a telephone news conference Friday morning.

“And then he made some veiled threat or suggestion that he was going to somehow involve law enforcement. This is not a third-world dictatorship,” he added.

The latter comment was part of the back-and-forth between the Scott and Nelson campaigns as both now are seeking legal actions in the U.S. Senate election, and both counter-charged each other with doing so to thwart voters’ will.

Scott said he was getting law enforcement to investigate voting issues, and Elias said that was not appropriate in an election in which Scott stands, and that Nelson’s campaign would challenge such action in court. Elias said Nelson’s campaign was suing to stop signature comparisons by untrained poll workers, and Scott’s campaign charged that was an effort to count fraudulent ballots.

The legal efforts and counter-accusations come as the contest remains tight. The latest numbers from the Florida Division of Elections show the vote spread right around 15,000 votes, with Scott leading, out of 8.17 million votes. At that rate, a difference of 0.18 percent, the election would qualify for a hand recount next week.

In Nelson’s case, Elias announced the campaign was filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to contest the Florida law and practice of letting non-experts in canvassing boards and Supervisors of Elections offices compare voter signatures on provisional and mail-in ballots to see if they match, to determine if the votes should be counted.

Elias said the practice leads to a “complete lack of uniformity” in how ballots are judged. He contended that studies show such practice is more likely to throw out valid signatures than to prevent fraudulent votes. The lawsuit seeks to end the practice, and cited four cases in which federal judges have stayed such practices.

Scott’s campaign countered with accusations that Nelson’s lawsuit is all about allowing for the counting of fraudulent votes.


“With today’s filing, their desperation has driven them to ask the federal courts to allow voter fraud,” Jackie Schutz Zeckman, Scott’s campaign manager, declared in a written statement issued before Elias’ press conference. “They are asking courts to overrule election officials and accept ballots that were not legally cast.”

Schutz Zeckman also alluded to the mystery of tens of thousands of ballots being discovered in Broward and Palm Beach counties after Election Day, a matter that is not addressed in Nelson’s federal lawsuit. She argued those ballots should not be counted.

“They aim to disenfranchise law-abiding Florida voters by producing ballots out of thin air until they have enough to win. We will not allow them to steal this election. Every vote that was legally and verifiably cast prior to the polls closing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday should, of course, be counted. Any votes that mysteriously showed up after that deadline are invalid,” she added.

Elias said those ballots were lawfully cast and must be counted on behalf of the voters who cast them. He charged Scott with acting inappropriately by asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

“It is not appropriate for the Governor of any state to suggest that he is going to use the powers of the state as Governor to interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been lawfully cast, especially in an election in which he stands,” Elias said.

“It is highly inappropriate and I can assure you we will take all the necessary steps in court to make sure that Sen. Nelson’s interests are protected if that were to come to pass.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


  • Art Vandalay

    November 9, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Rick Scott is just sore that he spent $21 million of his own dollars on a campaign in which he will lose. (His net worth is over $250 million).

    American Democracy: millionaires need only apply.

  • mck

    November 9, 2018 at 1:27 pm


    Pull up Bush v Gore, 531 US 98

    Even though SCOTUS did the unprecedented by saying the case was not to be used as precedent, the Equal Protection clause foundation of the plurality will be used as very compelling dicta.

    Based on Bush v Gore:

    Every ballot being counted now will have to be thrown out, because a hand recount will not have verifiable signature sleeves, since the ballots have been opened. As per Bush v Gore, allowing these ballots to be counted is unfair to all in-person voters who had to present ID and verifiable signature.

    It is unclear what would be done regarding mail-ins, which also will have lost their sleeves. Throwing them out would wipe out a very large percentage of Republicans statewide, but they were recorded, whereas the newly found ballots were not.

    All ballots located after 7pm would have to be thrown out because the law is clear about the deadline for receipt of ballots. Even post marks do not count. As per Bush v Gore, this would violate Equal Protection because anyone arriving at the poll after 7 would have been turned away statewide.

    In this case, the law is on the side of disallowing the post-deadline ballots.

    Regarding the use of law enforcement to monitor counting and secure ballots, Scott remains Governor until his term ends, he has the power and the right to do so. If a court issues an injunction, he will be required to secure the ballots. Securing the ballots should be amenable to all.

    I am not a Republican. I have never voted for Scott. I did not vote for Nelson either, I voted write in, “none of the above.” I did not vote for Gillum or Desantis, I voted for Richardson.

    Be prepared to see Richardson’s total grow in a recount, the NPAs were undoubtedly used to syphon off fractional votes, i.e. his votes being shifted to one of the major party candidates.

    I would argue that a recount must include the whole ballot or it denies everyone on the ballot Equal Protection. If 3 races are in doubt, the whole ballot must be in doubt. I know a local NPA candidate who almost surely had her votes flipped to the Democrat.

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    November 10, 2018 at 7:59 pm

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