Federal judge puts off ruling on deadline for counting votes — at least for now

Florida elections supervisors urge voters to request mail-in ballots now to ensure they have all options to vote, and they assert that voting by mail is safe and reliable. Credit: CD Davidson-Hiers

Recount logoU.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle didn’t rule immediately Friday in a lawsuit to extend the deadline for counting votes and other ballot issues — meaning counties will continue tallying until noon Saturday.

That’s the deadline for counties to provide the first unofficial count of Tuesday’s elections results to the Florida Secretary of State’s office. Those tallies are important in determining if a machine-recount will be required for various races or issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.

While there was no ruling Friday, Hinkle could potentially issue an order prior to the noon Saturday deadline, though that may be unlikely. Hinkle also set a hearing in the federal lawsuit for this coming Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida pits U.S. Senate Bill Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida against Ken Detzner, Florida’s Secretary of State. Incumbent Democrat Nelson trails Republican Gov. Rick Scott by a small margin in the U.S. Senate race —  a slim enough margin to require a recount.

Attorneys for Nelson and the committee requested that the judge order an injunction and preliminary restraining order to stop the vote-counting until serious issues are resolved. Those issues include ensuring that all signed absentee and provisional ballots are counted and included in total vote counts, and “no voters are unfairly and arbitrarily disenfranchised.”

But in a conference call with attorneys late Friday afternoon, Hinkle took on a deliberative tone, saying, “It seems to me far less urgent to have a ruling by noon tomorrow, and far more important to do this well” in a case that could determine the fate of a number of close races.

The governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum is also close and expected to lead to a recount. In addition, the Agriculture Commissioner race is extremely close, with Democrat Nikki Fried in a slight lead over Republican Matt Caldwell.





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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