‘Democrat lawyers descending on Florida to steal elections,’ says Rubio. Recount already takes a shady turn.

The closest US Senate race in decades is still unfolding in Florida where rival campaigns are now looking at legal action in the face of looming recounts in multiple races in the state.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leading Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by  just more than one-fourth of a percentage point, and battle lines have been drawn, according to the Tampa Bay Times

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With over 8.1 million votes cast in the state, Scott’s lead over Nelson as of Thursday morning has thrust the race into arguably the “closest Senate race in Florida’s history, according to the state Division of Elections web site,” the Times reported.

As of Thursday afternoon, Scott was ahead of Nelson by only 17,344 votes, or 0.22 percent, according to the Miami Herald.

And in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County, questions are raging about why the prominent Senate race drew so many fewer votes.

“We are proceeding to a recount,” Nelson said Wednesday morning as the numbers continued to come in, prompting Scott spokesman Chris Hartline to counter, “It’s a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career. He is desperately trying to hold on to something that no longer exists.”

But the scramble for votes has already seen both sides lining up legal teams as the recounts loom, raising the specter of the infamous 2000 presidential campaign when Republican George W. Bush faced off against Democrat Al Gore. That election hung in the balance as Florida’s votes triggered a statewide mandatory machine recount, and then a manual recount before the Supreme Court had to weigh in.

Even the margins between Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum shrunk to .47 percent Wednesday night, which could mean an automatic machine recount as required by the state’s law if the difference is .50 percent or lower.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party put out a call for help in an appeal Thursday for volunteers to help find voters – presumably Democrats – who cast a provisional ballot to “help ensure that their votes are counted.”

But Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes was having a hard time explaining the questionable numbers coming up in her area, according to the Miami Herald which reported:

As of Thursday afternoon, 676,706 votes had been counted in Broward in the U.S. Senate race, according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, overwhelmingly for Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson over Republican Rick Scott. But nearly every other statewide office garnered more votes in Broward than the Senate race, particularly the contest for governor, with 24,763 more voters — 701,469 in all — weighing in.

Every county except Broward and Palm Beach have already transmitted early and absentee votes to the state.

“Whatever is back there we have to finish it today,” Snipes said. “I don’t know if they’re all in the room but I know they’re all opened. Opening is a big task and getting them out of that envelope. But they’re all opened, I do know that … we’re finishing the count as we speak.”

The numbers for the total ballots cast were raising questions as two figures, one showing 695,799 and another showing 716,268, were unable to be explained by Snipes who also couldn’t account for the low number of voters in the U.S. Senate race.

“I have not had an opportunity to take a look at that,” she said, according to the Miami Herald. “I heard that for the first time yesterday.”

Even votes for the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Agriculture outnumbered the votes in the Senate race.

She dismissed technical issues with the machines as being the culprit.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio blasted Snipes for “a history of incompetence” and accused Democratic lawyers of trying to “steal” the two Senate and state Cabinet seats.

“A U.S. Senate seat & a statewide cabinet officer are now potentially in the hands of an elections supervisor with a history of incompetence & of blatant violations of state & federal laws,” Rubio tweeted.

“The votes in Broward for the state Cabinet races also outnumbered the votes cast in the Senate race. About 13,800 more voters chose a candidate for Attorney General, and about 8,700 more votes were cast for Commissioner of Agriculture,” the Herald reported.

Nelson’s campaign has been actively commenting on the vote tallies and urging Democrats who voted with a provisional ballot to follow up.

“We know Rick Scott and the GOP are about to pile everything they’ve got into this, and I need you right here with me to make sure every last vote is counted,” read the message from Nelson’s newly launched “emergency response recount fund.”

And while recounts are not unusual for Florida, they are by no means an easy task.

According to the Tampa Bay Times:

A manual recount is vastly more complicated and time-consuming and involves ballot-by-ballot reviews of all under-votes and over-votes. That requires local canvassing board members to interpret voter intent, which was at the heart of the legal battles in the 2000 presidential recount.

The highly-decentralized nature of Florida election administration means that a hand recount will be fought out in 67 counties at once, as a second campaign marshals legal and political forces on each side’s behalf.

 

Indeed, county election supervisors and other election officials are highly partisan partners in the contentious recount dances.

But in the attempts to secure the alleged missing votes, it seems not all data is coming directly from local county election offices in Florida. Nelson’s campaign actually relied on a New York Times analysis based on voter models that estimated turnout which indicated there were 113,000 uncounted ballots in Florida – many in the Democratic strongholds of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the Tampa Bay Times reported. .

Ballots were still being tallied Wednesday in “voter-rich” Broward County, the newspaper reported, which is another way of labeling the Democrat bastion in South Florida. The aggressive push for manual recounts – especially in the heavily Democratic areas – is at the forefront of the Nelson campaign as well as other Democratic candidates facing razor-thin margins.

Reporters will apparently be briefed on plans to “aggressively examine and address reports of irregularities” by a member of Nelson’s legal team, Marc Elias, the Times reported.

“We’re doing this not just because it’s automatic, but we’re doing it to win,” the Washington election law expert blatantly said.

A statewide machine recount in the Senate race will have to be ordered by Secretary of State Ken Detzner who will also be announcing the same for the other races that fall within the margin for a recount, including Florida Agriculture Commissioner where 575 votes, or .003577 percent, separate the leader, Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell, according to the Herald.

The Broward Elections office has reportedly been told to expect up to three recounts, according to Snipes.

SEE UPDATED FLORIDA RESULTS HERE. 

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