By Will Patrick
Florida is the nation’s largest swing state, and true to form two of its most important elections were undecided more than a week after Election Day.
Three-term incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson was behind Republican Gov. Rick Scott by only 38,717 on Nov. 6, out of more than 8 million votes cast. Scott’s lead dwindled to roughly 12,000 votes after absentee ballots, provisional ballots and overseas ballots continued being counted in the days following.
In the race for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by less than 84,000 votes. That lead has also dwindled. A bevy of lawsuits soon followed, and Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a mandatory machine recount order.
Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less must go to a recount. If any race ends up with a margin under 0.25 percent, a manual recount will follow.
The Nelson-Scott and Gillum-DeSantis races, the race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, qualify for machine recounts. Detzner ordered a five-day recount period ending Thursday, Nov. 15, at 3 p.m. But Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said she would not be able to meet the deadline, and embattled Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said she wasn’t sure, as of Wednesday after.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, an Obama-appointee, issued a new deadline of Saturday 5 p.m., so that voters who had their mail-in and provisional ballots rejected because of mismatching signatures could rectify their votes.
Controversy has also been at fever-pitch. Brenda Snipes has become the focus of what many see as election incompetence, and others election rigging. Snipes has a long history of issues, including illegally destroying ballots cast in a 2016 while a recount lawsuit was pending. President Donald Trump and Rick Scott have both alleged fraud, but no formal determination of fraud has yet been substantiated.
Nelson’s lawyers have filed other lawsuits, including a request to allow nearly 875,000 ballots that were rejected for being late, another recount deadline extension, and a suit aimed at changing voter intent standards. The lawsuits argue that corresponding election rules passed by the Florida Department of State unconstitutionally disenfranchise voters.
As an aside, Nelson’s lead attorney is Marc Elias, the Washington, D.C.-based chairman of the political law group at the power-firm of Perkins Coie. Elias was also the general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and personally retained the opposition research firm Fusion GPS that went on to help produce the infamous Trump “dossier,” according to the Washington Post.
Now that both Nelson and Gillum have conceded, are the problems revealed during this election enough to force officials to address concerns before 2020? We’ll just have to wait and see. After all, this is Florida.