Florida Gov. Rick Scott suggested there was “rampant fraud” and called for law enforcement to investigate two counties over their election practices as the Republican’s lead in the state’s U.S. Senate race continued to shrink Thursday evening.
As the Senate contest between Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson appeared headed toward a recount, Scott repeatedly accused liberals of trying to “steal” the election from him in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He called out the supervisors of elections, Democrats Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, by name, on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the way the counties were counting ballots.
“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties,” he said in a televised statement outside the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. The governor offered no specific evidence of fraud, saying only that the counties were the only two in the state where there were irregularities.
“Every day since the election, the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere. We all know what is going on. Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to mysteriously keep finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want.”
“Tonight, I am asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate this immediately,” he added later. “No ragtag group of liberal activists or lawyers from D.C. will be allowed to steal this election from the voters of this great state.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told reporters Thursday the agency would investigate.
“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties.”
Florida law mandates a machine recount if the margin separating the candidates is less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast. If the margin is less than 0.25 percent of the votes cast, the law requires a hand recount. Saturday is the deadline for county canvassing boards to file unofficial election results with the Florida secretary of state.
As of Thursday, Scott and Nelson were separated by 0.18 percentage points. In the governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum were separated by 0.44 percent.
“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 born out of desperation,” Dan McLaughlin, a Nelson spokesman, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump also weighed in with a tweet backing Scott on Thursday night, saying there was “another big corruption scandal” in Broward County.
David Becker, an election administration expert and the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, tweeted there was nothing nefarious about officials continuing to count ballots.
“We are literally 50+ hours from polls closing. There are still mail and absentee ballots to count all over the country,” he said in a Twitter message. “It’s more important to get it right than get it fast. Let election officials do their jobs. All counts to this point are unofficial and have no legal effect.
Scott’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee also sued Snipes and Bucher separately in state court Thursday. He accused Snipes of violating the state’s public records laws by not turning over information about ballots Broward County had counted and the ones still outstanding. Scott and Republicans requested an emergency hearing to force her to turn over the information.
Snipes has not publicly said how many ballots her office still has to count, Politico reported, as tens of thousands of new votes, including many vote-by-mail and absentee ballots came into her office.
In the suit against Bucher, Scott and Republicans alleged Palm Beach County election officials failed to let party representatives properly watch absentee ballots being counted, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
It isn’t the first time Snipes has been at the center of controversy. Earlier this year, a federal judge said she illegally destroyed ballots in a 2016 congressional race. Her office has also been sued for leaving a constitutional amendment off ballots. Broward was the last county in the state to post its election results.