TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For some, this year's midterm elections in Florida felt like Déjà vu from 2000, when Broward and Palm Beach counties were the focus of national attention. There were vote-counting problems in those counties during the presidential recount.
Gov. Rick Scott ran against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson for Senate, and two days after his victory speech, he was facing the possibility of a recount. The deadline to certify this year's midterm election results is Nov. 20.
During a Thursday night speech delivered in front of the governor's mansion in Tallahassee, Scott announced he and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed lawsuits against Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda C. Snipes and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
As both counties were still counting votes, Scott read a statement saying "unethical liberals" and "left-wing activists" were trying to "steal the election" by "coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere."
Scott filed the lawsuit as a candidate, but as the sitting governor, he said he also wanted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the handling of the ballots. President Donald Trump tweeted after Scott's news conference: "Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!"
In the lawsuit filed in Broward County Circuit Court, the NRSC and Scott accuse Snipes, who has served in her role since 2003, of failing to provide information about outstanding ballots that had yet to be tabulated.
In the lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, the NRSC and Scott accuse Bucher of not allowing the county's canvassing board to determine "all valid votes" from "overvoted" and "undervoted" absentee ballots and "has made determinations regarding voter intent herself."
"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud in Palm Beach and Broward counties," Scott said.
Under Florida law, a recount is mandatory if the margin of the winning candidate is less than 0.5 percentage points when the secretary of state verifies the first unofficial count on Saturday.
"An emergency hearing is necessary as the Canvassing Board is obligated to submit the unofficial elections results to the Division of Elections by noon November 10, 2018," the lawsuit says.
On Tuesday's midterm election, Broward County reported there were 634,000 votes cast, and by Thursday night the number had increased to 712,840 ballots, Scott said.
"Late Tuesday night, our win was projected to be around 57,000 votes. By Wednesday morning, that lead dropped to 38,000 votes. By Wednesday evening, it was around 30,000," Scott said. "This morning, it was around 21,000. Now it's 15,000."
Bill Nelson released a statement shortly after Scott's announcement.
"The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately," the statement said. "Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation."
The U.S. Postal Service also released a statement after Scott's announcement saying management is researching whether or not all of the ballots were delivered on time.
"We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all election mail, such as ballots. This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local, county, and state levels," the statement said. "For the 2018 election, local postal officials performed regular checks for all ballots received and tendered those to the election office."
Another investigation ensued in Broward County after Lakeisha Sorey, a resource teacher at Sunshine Elementary School, said there was an abandoned storage bin labeled "provisional ballots" in the school. Dozel Spencer, the Broward County Elections Voter Equipment Center director, told CNN that it was equipment, not ballots, and it was there because it takes several days to pick up equipment.
MIDTERM ELECTION DATES
Nov. 10: Unofficial results are due by 12 p.m.
Nov. 15: Machine recounts are due by 3 p.m.
Nov. 16: Military/overseas counted
Nov. 18: Hand recount due by 12 p.m.
Nov. 20: Results are certified