Key Florida county prepares for recounts in too-close-to-call races

Jon Ward
Senior Political Correspondent
Judge Deborah Carpenter-Toye, left, a Canvassing Board member, shows political observers a test ballot that needs replacing in Lauderhill, Fla. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

LAUDERHILL, Fla. — The recount has not even really begun in Broward County.

Local election officials worked furiously throughout the day Monday to separate the first page from a voting ballot that ranges from four to seven pages so Broward County can begin machine recounts of the elections for governor and Senate, as well as the statewide race for agriculture commissioner.

That first page contains the results for all three of those races, so once Broward officials have isolated the first page from 700,000 ballots, they can begin the machine recount that is due to be finished by this Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

Broward is one of two counties in the statewide recount that is most under the microscope. It is a Democratic stronghold where Sen. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat, banked 471,000 of his more than 4 million votes in the state and where the Democratic nominee for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, received 481,000 votes out of his 4 million-plus total.

Broward officials were working around the clock to complete the recount. One security guard said he’d arrived at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, worked until 4 p.m., and then had come back at 11 p.m. Sunday and was still working at 4 p.m. on Monday.

Outside the office, which is in the middle of a rundown strip mall about 45 minutes north of Miami, a group of about 50 protesters supporting the Republican Senate candidate, Gov. Rick Scott, and the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Ron DeSantis, kept vigil, though it was a more low-key day of protesting than it has been in the past few days.

Left to right: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson for the Senate. (Photo-illustration: Yahoo News; photos: MPI10/MediaPunch/IPX/Getty Images, John Raoux/AP, Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Though the protest was subdued, there was at least one racially charged exchange between a white protester and a few black men, leading to talk by one protester that he might go to his car to get his gun.

Scott leads Nelson by just over 12,500 votes out of 8 million cast. That’s a difference of just 0.15 percent. If the machine recount shows a race where the differential between the two candidates is below 0.25 percent, then the recount will proceed to a hand recount. The entire process could take weeks, Todd Falzone, an attorney for the Nelson campaign, told Yahoo News.

DeSantis’s lead is currently outside the hand recount range, at 0.41 percent.

On Monday, a county judge denied a request by Scott to “impound and secure” voting machines in the Broward office unless they were being used to recount votes. Circuit Judge Jack Tuter did order that three sheriff’s deputies be added to provide security at the Broward office.

And Judge Tuter also gave a word of caution to all parties involved in the recount.

“I am urging because of the highly public nature of this case to ramp down the rhetoric,” Tuter said. “If someone in this lawsuit or someone in this county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor’s office, they should report it to their local law enforcement officer.”

A crowd of protesters gathers outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office. (Photo: Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

“If the lawyers are aware of it, they should swear out an affidavit, but everything the lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. Words mean things these days,” the judge said.

That warning could just as well have been aimed at President Trump and at Scott. Trump tweeted on Monday morning that the Florida election “should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis,” despite the fact that state law dictates a recount.

Trump wrote, without providing evidence, that “large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged” and that “an honest vote count is no longer possible” because “ballots [are] massively infected.”

Scott himself has launched accusations that Nelson is “trying to commit fraud to win this election,” but investigators from the Florida Department of State and from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have found no evidence of any voter fraud in Florida.

“There is nothing illegal going on,” said Democratic State Sen. Gary Farmer. Republicans, Farmer told Yahoo News, “are making blatantly false allegations that they know are untrue. … This system is working the way it’s supposed to work.”

But Scott campaign spokeswoman Ana Carbonell said in an interview with MSNBC that voter fraud might be construed as any situation in which elections officials “have not followed the process.”

Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has had a history of snafus in her office in recent years.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes shows a ballot box found in a rental car after the election that turned out to contain only Election Day supplies, on Nov. 12, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

“She has shown she’s incapable of conducting a large and important election in a way that inspires public confidence and trust,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Politico. “She’s been found to have destroyed ballots, in violation of the law. Opened absentee ballots early, in violation of the law. Misprinted ballots that have gone out.”

 

_____

Read more from Yahoo News: