Florida Governor Rick Scott claims election fraud, orders law enforcement investigation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, who is facing a potential recount in the Florida US Senate race against Democratic US Senator Bill Nelson, claims that thousands of election ballots haven't been counted, more than 48-hours after polls closed.

Additionally, Scott announced that he will be suing the Broward County Supervisor of Elections and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections over ballot counting, claiming that election officials are refusing to release public records. The two counties in question, are considered democratic strongholds in Florida.

HOW A RECOUNT WORKS IN FLORIDA

Governor Scott, using his authority as Governor, says he is calling on Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the alleged fraud. 

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Hearing in Palm Beach County

A court hearing was held Friday morning in Palm Beach County regarding the lawsuit. 

Judge Krista Marx ordered Friday any ballot that the supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher or her staff throws out will need to go in front of the canvassing board.

Marx also ordered Bucher to provide a list by 4 p.m. of everyone who voted by provisional ballot. 

She also rejected a request to extend the provisional ballot deadline. The judge said she was not convinced she has the jurisdiction to do so, and that it would  basically be a fishing expedition.

When it came time for Gov. Rick Scott’s attorney to address the state’s lawsuit, she argued that when the supervisor of elections is reviewing damaged ballots and making copies there are no witnesses present. The lawyer says witnesses are too far away and can’t see what’s going on, and the state wants a fair and accurate vote.

Bucher’s attorney argued her staff is there witnessing the process. Scott’s attorney argued she wants to look at original and damaged ballots and oversee that the process is done right and accurately.

More than two thousand ballots need to be reviewed. 

Judge Marx ordered any undervote, overvote or damaged ballot the supervisor or her employees determined to throw out without the canvassing board must go in front of them.

She ordered the supervisor of elections office to provide that information by 10 a.m. Saturday.

As Scott’s lead narrowed over incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, the governor alleged rampant fraud is happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, but offered no direct evidence for that claim. He also ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

Hearing in Broward County

At a hearing in Broward County, a judge sided with Gov. Rick Scott, according to NBC 6. It says the judge ordered the Broward Supervisor of Elections to allow the inspection of voting records.

As of Thursday evening, Scott leads Nelson by .2 percent. That margin is a bit smaller than from Election Night when Scott led by more than a half percent. Any result within .25 percent triggers an automatic hand recount. 

Florida machine recounts are triggered when the margin between the candidates is below 0.5 of 1 percent.

The Florida secretary of state has not ordered a recount, and his office said that would not happen until canvassing boards return their unofficial returns on Nov. 10.

Following the announcement, Senator Bill Nelson's office released the following statement: “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.”

  Any voter who returned their vote-by-mail ballot can track online the status of his or her ballot through a link within the Division of Elections' Voter Information Lookup or through their county Supervisor of Elections' website. 

Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida law enforcement agency, said by phone Thursday night that the agency would follow up on the governor's request.

Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said she didn't know how many ballots remain to be counted, but all were being processed. She also did not know how many provisional, military and mismarked ballots need to be counted. Her department's website said ballots cast on Election Day have been counted.

President Donald Trump tweeted about the alleged election fraud on Thursday night, writing in part, "Florida voted for Rick Scott!"

 

 

Related: Down to the wire: Key FL races including governor, senator could come down to recount

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum also responded to Scott following the press conference in a tweet, telling him to "count every vote."

 

 

Two emergency hearings are scheduled for Friday in Palm Beach County and Broward County. The Palm Beach County hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and the Broward County hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. 

ABC Action News reached out to FDLE to find out if there are any open investigations into allegations of criminal activity or fraud. They sent the following statement:

Right now, FDLE is working with DOS and will investigate any allegations of criminal activity or fraud. This morning FDLE communicated with Department of State  and they indicated at this time, they had no allegations of fraud.  FDLE has offered its assistance in the event any criminal allegations are identified and will continue to remain in contact with the Department of State.

Florida laws give the Governor the ability to direct FDLE to conduct an investigation in writing to the executive director.  We do not have anything in writing at this time.

Over the weekend we will learn whether or not there will be an official recount.

Story developing, refresh for updates.

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