Judge rules in Gov. Scott's favor, orders Snipes to allow ballot inspections immediately

Scott also asks FDLE to investigate elections offices in Broward, Palm Beach

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A judge ordered Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes to allow immediate inspection of voter records during an emergency hearing Friday.

The court was asked to intervene in the tight U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott as the two sides prepare for a possible recount. 

Judge Carol-Lisa Phillip said Snipes must allow inspections on or before 7 p.m. Friday evening. Phillips found that Snipes violated that law by failing to turn over the information to attorneys for Scott's Senate campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Lawyers for Snipes argued that requiring such a swift response would interfere with ongoing efforts to finish counting Broward County ballots. But lawyers for Scott contended the information is already required to be collected under state law and should take minutes to provide.

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Scott filed a lawsuit Thursday night against, asking the court to order Snipes to turn over several records detailing the counting and collection of ballots. 

But Snipes attorney said in court Friday that it would be inappropriate for the court to intervene at this time, simply because Scott wants the counting process to be sped up. 

The attorney said Snipes is not refusing to turn over the records, but needs more time to do so. 

Scott's thin lead over Nelson has narrowed during the vote-counting in the days since he declared victory Tuesday night.

Without citing any evidence of wrongdoing, Scott also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in the Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward counties, questioning whether they have been taking too long in some sort of effort to inflate the Democratic vote. 

However, the FDLE has said it is not investigating Snipes at this time, as no allegations of voter fraud have been received and Scott has not put his request in writing. 

Nelson waited until Friday afternoon to respond to Scott's lawsuit.

"Clearly, Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted and he’s impeding the democratic process." said Nelson in a recorded video statement. "You can see this from his irresponsible, unethical and unprecedented press statement last night that he’s worried and he’s desperate."

A lawyer for Nelson criticized Scott for using his official position to try to influence ballot counting.

On Friday, Nelson lawyer Marc Elias shot back at Scott on a conference call with reporters, saying, "Just look at the behavior of your governor."

Elias said it's "not appropriate" for a governor to suggest he's going to use his powers to "interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been legally cast."