Broward County at center of Florida recount debate as judge orders release of ballot count
Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Broward County election officials will have to disclose how many ballots are outstanding and yet to be counted, a federal judge ruled in Florida.
Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida ruled in favor of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who filed an emergency complaint late Thursday night against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.
The ruling allows for an immediate inspection of the most current information on the number of ballots both already cast and still uncounted. Scott and incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are in the midst of a razor-thin race for Florida’s Senate seat.
Philips ordered the information be made available by 7 p.m.
“It should be there, it should not slow down the proceedings, it should be a matter of record at this point,” Phillips said. “This is information that should have already been compiled.”
Scott’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will also have access to those ballots, per the judge’s ruling.
Snipes’ attorney Eugene Pettis argued in court that the lawsuits were an attempt by Scott and the NRSC to slow things down.
“Whether they’re saying it or not, they’re interfering with the counting process, which should be Dr. Snipes’s primary responsibility,” Pettis said, arguing that Snipes is not denying the information should be made public but that she had only 26 hours to get her job done.
Pettis disputed Scott’s earlier comments about the fundamental importance of protecting the vote.
“I think there’s something equally fundamental, which is to count the vote,” Pettis said.
Scott’s attorney Jason Zimmerman noted that his clients were not requesting Broward County stop counting votes.
“This is a simple request that the supervisor of elections should have provided,” Zimmerman said.
Scott has filed another lawsuit in Palm Beach County, which has also not finished counting its votes.
A narrow margin in the votes cast in the divided state has Florida gearing up for recounts in both the gubernatorial and senate races. Nelson has not yet conceded to Scott, who currently leads by less than 0.2 percent with ballots across the state still uncounted.
State rules mandate a recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percent, which looks entirely possible as Broward County and Palm Beach County, both Democratic-leaning counties, haven’t completed counting mail-in ballots — and one of them hasn’t finished counting early ballots, either. Many more counties continue to count provisional ballots. Counties face a noon Saturday deadline to report preliminary results to the state and thin margins could trigger a recount could come as early as then.
Scott carried a larger lead Tuesday night, but continues to see it dissipate as more votes come in. Scott has responded by accusing county election supervisors of corruption.
Scott is backed by support from the president, the GOP and Florida’s current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
A win for Republicans in Florida’s senate race would only add to the stinging loss of three key Senate seats on Tuesday night in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, which are all states where Democratic senators faced re-election in states Trump won in 2016. But in Florida, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is awaiting results against Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott, Trump narrowly won the state by less than 1.5 percentage points.
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