Lawyers agree to add deputies at Broward County recount site

History of Snipes violating law reason for emergency hearing, attorney argues

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor, Associated Press

Attorneys Jason Zimmerman (left), representing Gov. Rick Scott, and Eugene Pettis, representing Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes, argue their cases in front of Broward County's chief judge.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott wants law enforcement to impound voting machines and ballots in Broward County when they're not being used during the Florida recount.

Attorneys for Scott's Senate campaign were in court Monday morning asking Chief Judge Jack Tuter to turn over custody of all voting machines and ballots to the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement whenever they're not being used.

Jason Zimmerman, who represents Scott, cited Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes' history of violating the law as a reason for the emergency hearing.

"We've been concerned about this from day one," Zimmerman said. "That is the purpose of this complaint. We haven't had access. We haven't had information. We haven't had transparency."

A statewide recount has been ordered in three races -- governor, Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The recount currently being conducted in Broward County is secured by BSO deputies, but Zimmerman said they are under the "operational control" of Snipes.

However, attorney Eugene Pettis argued that there are numerous laws that govern the elections process and said two private security forces, in addition to the BSO, are also monitoring the vote-counting.

Pettis criticized Scott's team for bringing up the accidental discarding of ballots from the 2016 election.

"Should they have kept those ballots? Absolutely, for another year," Pettis said. "There was a mistake (that) happened, she's acknowledged that and we've moved on from that issue. But they continue to bring that up to somehow suggest something nefarious about what's going on now."

Pettis also criticized language in the motion that indicates "ballots are being moved."

"They know that's not true," Pettis said.

Ultimately, lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates agreed to add three more sheriff's deputies to monitor the recount.

Tuter suggested that the sides agree on a suggestion of putting the additional deputies at Snipes' office, where the county's votes are being counted. He said this would be a measure that could help reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected.

The judge said he's seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote counting and urged lawyers on all sides to "ramp down the rhetoric."

Unofficial election results show Scott leading Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by just 0.14 percentage points.

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