Florida’s unresolved elections for governor and Senator just got considerably more contentious. Current governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott (R) filed a lawsuit Thursday against Democratic elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach Counties and directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate them.
Building on the conspiracy theories Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) began floating earlier this week, Scott’s suit implies that the ongoing efforts to simply count every vote — however slowly — are tantamount to an effort on the part of Democrats to somehow steal the election. “Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties,” he said Thursday night on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion.
Scott described the counties as having demonstrated “incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations” for years, before accusing “unethical liberals” of trying “to steal this election from the great people of Florida.”
There is currently no evidence to substantiate these partisan allegations.
Tuesday night, Scott claimed victory in his Senate race against incumbent Bill Nelson (D), but as late vote counts have come in, his slim lead has increasingly narrowed. A similar dynamic is playing out in another marquee race in the Sunshine State: Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D) had conceded to Ron DeSantis (R), but after that race began to tighten, Gillum has called for “counting every vote.”
Both of these races are edging closer to the possibility of recounts, which under existing law are triggered if the margin is smaller than 0.5 percent of all votes.
Conspicuously, some 25,000 people in Broward County cast votes for governor but not for senator, which has given rise to concerns about the ballot layout. The current margin between Scott and Nelson is just over 15,000 votes statewide, and both Broward and Palm Beach counties lean heavily Democratic.
Nelson responded to the lawsuit by accusing Scott of political desperation, noting that the goal is simply to make sure all votes are counted.
The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately. Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation. https://t.co/ewN4eT8tXU
— Nelson for U.S. Senate (@NelsonForSenate) November 9, 2018
Gillum similarly took a swipe at Scott’s partisan efforts Thursday night.
Mr. @FLGovScott — counting votes isn't partisan — it's democracy.
Count every vote.
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) November 9, 2018
Florida isn’t the only place where Republicans are trying to interrupt efforts to count all votes. In Arizona, where a similarly tight Senate race between Martha McSally (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) has begun to trend in Sinema’s favor, Republican parties in four counties have similarly sued to challenge the process of counting outstanding ballots.
In both Florida and Arizona, election officials are contending with a high volume of mail-in ballots, which must undergo a laborious signature confirmation process before they can be tabulated. In Arizona, in particular, about 75 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail, meaning the task can take several days to complete.