Three days after the polls closed, the talk of the state is dominated by recounts and lawsuits involving the 2018 midterm election. As baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “it’s deja vu all over again” with memories of Florida’s 2000 presidential recount bubbling to the surface.
The ongoing vote count in some counties continues to tighten the margins in two of the state’s high profile races — for U.S. Senate and governor.
As of Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott holds a lead of 0.18 percent over Sen. Bill Nelson, or 15,074 votes. Republican Ron DeSantis holds a lead of 0.44 percent over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s contest, or 36,211 votes.
Meanwhile, Democrat Nikki Fried is holding on to a lead of.0.04 percent over Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner, or 2,915 votes. Results reported Tuesday evening showed Caldwell with a slim lead in that race.
Under state law, a machine recount is triggered if the margin of victory in a race is less than 0.5 percent, while a hand recount is triggered if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.
What’s caused the shift in the vote counts? Local elections officials are still counting mail-in and provisional ballots in the Democratic bastions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, two counties being run by what Scott described Thursday evening as a “rag-tag group of liberal activists” trying to steal an election.
“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said during a Thursday evening news conference held at the Governor’s Mansion.
Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes seeking an immediate hearing. The lawsuit claims Snipes continues to withhold crucial voter information and has blocked access to the office.
The campaign also filed a separate lawsuit against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, claiming she refused to let Scott’s campaign representatives to personally witness the ballot counting. The suit also accuses Bucher of keeping the county canvassing board from performing its duties.
“I am considering every single legal option available,” Scott told reporters Thursday evening.
“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the Nelson campaign, responded. “Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”
The Nelson campaign has scheduled a conference call for Friday morning to give Marc Elias, the recount attorney brought in by the campaign, a chance to respond to Scott’s charges.
Meanwhile, county canvassing boards will continue meeting Friday to count any ballots that may remain. All counties have until noon Saturday to submit their first unofficial returns to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. It will be up to Detzner to decide whether any or all of the three races meet the legal requirements for a machine or manual recount.