With lead dwindling in U.S. Senate race, Rick Scott files lawsuits against Broward, Palm Beach elections officials

Bill Nelson Rick Scott
Bill Nelson/Rick Scott

Update: The numbers of votes in this race continue to change as elections officials continue their tallies. Please look back at the main Florida Phoenix website for the latest stories – and vote totals – in this race. 

The battle over the U.S. Senate seat in Florida has now gone to court, with Gov. Rick Scott — acting as U.S. Senate candidate Scott — suing Broward and Palm Beach counties over lack of disclosure over Broward’s vote count, and absentee ballots in Palm Beach, among other allegations.

The lawsuits, filed late Thursday, come as Scott’s lead over Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson has been narrowing.

Florida Division of Elections numbers show Nelson trailing by just 15,074 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast — a margin so slim that it triggers a mandatory recount under Florida law.

The Broward lawsuit, filed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Rick Scott, is against Brenda C. Snipes, the Supervisor of Elections in Broward County, where Nelson garnered more than 450,000 votes — twice the votes cast for Scott.

The Broward lawsuit states that: “Two days after voting has concluded, the Supervisor of Elections is unwilling to disclose records revealing how many electors voted, how many ballots have been canvassed, and how many ballots remain to be canvassed. The lack of transparency raises substantial concerns about the validity of the election process.”

The lawsuit also states that “An emergency hearing is necessary as the Canvassing Board is obligated to submit the unofficial election results to the Division of Elections by noon November 10, 2018.”

The lawsuit reveals that Scott and the national committee submitted a public records request to the Broward Supervisor of Elections, asking for records related to “current information” on absentee and early voting and documents showing the actual amount of ballots cast and counted as well as ballots left to be counted.

Failure to provide the records “is unconstitutional and unlawful,” according to the lawsuit.

In the Palm Beach County case, Scott sued Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County. In that county, Nelson also had a wide lead over Scott.

The case involves the processing of  “physically damaged absentee votes,” and “overvoted and undervoted” absentee ballots.

The Palm Beach lawsuit claims that the supervisor of elections refused to allow Scott or his representatives to properly witness processing and duplication of physically damaged absentee ballots.

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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