- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
- Florida’s midterm election recount is underway, but aging, faulty machines are slowing the process in some counties.
- President Donald Trump and his GOP allies have continued to spread unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and corruption in Democratic-leaning counties.
- Both Republicans and Democrats have filed lawsuits over how the vote is counted.
Florida’s midterm election recount continues as President Donald Trump and his Republican allies lob unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and Democrats sue the state to expand the universe of eligible votes.
The most anticipated results are in the US Senate race in which Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leads Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by 0.14 of a percentage point, or around 12,000 votes, in the state’s initial vote tabulation.
Technical difficulties persist
While Republicans have aggressively attacked two of the state’s largest counties – both Democratic-leaning – with allegations of voter fraud and widespread corruption without presenting any evidence to support these claims, elections officials report that aging and faulty equipment and over-stretched staff have significantly slowed their ballot-counting efforts.
(The vast majority of the state’s 67 counties will have their recounts completed by the Thursday deadline).
The Palm Beach County elections supervisor said Tuesday that the county’s aging machines have overheated, causing issues in the recount of 174,000 early voter ballots.
Palm Beach, which received nearly 600,000 votes, is the only county in the state that uses machines that are only able to count one race at a time. (A judge gave the county a four-day deadline extension – until next Tuesday – to count its ballots).
Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale thinks some of the attacks on elections officials, most notably Broward County supervisor Brenda Snipes, could have been avoided if the officials had been more transparent and communicative about their overwhelming load.
“I think there’s a huge issue with just lack of communication,” Schale said of Broward County. “Had [Snipes] had a press conference on Wednesday morning and just said, ‘Listen we just got inundated the last 24 hours with ballots,’ I don’t think some of the criticism she’s gotten would have been leveled in the same way.”
Schale argued that the untold story is that the vote-counting is, in fact, going largely as expected, given the surge in turnout and outdated machinery.
“For the most part it’s basically working,” Schale said. “It’s actually working pretty well, certainly having lived through 2000 – I mean there’s no comparison.”
Trump makes increasingly wild voter-fraud claims
Since Election Day last Tuesday, Trump has led Republican efforts to spread unsubstantiated allegations about the vote counts in Florida, claiming that officials are forging and “finding” votes or committing other forms of fraud.
“When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the president – without any evidence – alleged that voters will “go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.”
Democrats have repeatedly pointed out that the state sent election monitors to observe the ballot-counting in Broward County, and these officials have not reported any instances of alleged wrongdoing.
“Either those election observers say there’s no fraud, or they’re complicit in the fraud,” Schale said.
Democrats have continued to push back on the unfounded claims, which Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Matt Gaetz have also added to.
“It’s a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook – it’s nonsense, there’s no evidence,” Mitch Ceasar, the former longtime chairman of the Broward Democratic Party, told INSIDER. “When they win, they win. And when the lose, they say it’s fixed.”
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1 https://t.co/CQGLPOyO7S
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) November 14, 2018
Nelson’s campaign has filed multiple lawsuits, including to overturn a Florida statute that requires voter signatures to match the signatures the state has on file and to allow ballots postmarked before Election Day (but received by the state after) to be counted.
Schale argued that the suits address real issues the state has had and will likely continue to have if they’re not resolved. He said that he doesn’t mail in his ballot for fear of it being disqualified over his signature not matching the state’s records.
“I don’t know whether the lawsuit has merit or not – I’m not a lawyer, the judge will figure that out,” Schale said of the lawsuit concerning voter signatures. “But the reality is that it’s been a problem. It is a problem – and that is decreasing confidence among voters when they cast a vote-by-mail ballot.”
Scott’s team has also filed suits demanding, among other things, that law enforcement seize and monitor ballots and voting equipment during the recounts (which was denied by a judge on Monday) and an injunction to stop Broward County from counting any ballots not submitted by last Saturday’s deadline.