All hell just broke loose in Florida’s 2018 midterm election as the state is once again mired in recounts for both the Governor’s race and the race for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Bill Nelson. President Donald Trump, as he is wont to do, stuck his nose in the matter through his Twitter account, forcing Florida’s top law enforcement agency to step in and set the record straight.
Donald Trump is desperate to keep all of Florida’s millions of ballots from being fairly counted. Last night, the part-time Florida Man launched an online slander attack against Broward and Palm Beach County Supervisors of Elections after Senator Marco Rubio spent all day whining about his conspiracy theories over GOP candidates’ dwindling leads in the races for Governor and Senator.
Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
Trump was probably reacting to Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott’s appearance on Fox host Hannity’s program last night, where the Senate candidate pushed his conspiracy theories after a bizarre press conference from the Governor’s mansion where he demanded a criminal investigation without any basis in facts or law and took no questions.
Today, Trump has spent most of his afternoon going bananas on Twitter while flying off to Paris for a meeting with his political patron Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s is good buddies with Rick Scott, who is locked in a close race for the US Senate with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Scott abused his position as Florida’s Governor to publicly order ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the state’s equivalent of the FBI, to investigate Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes and the neighboring Palm Beach Supervisor.
According to the AP, Trump and Scott’s request were little more than dictatorial political theater and the FDLE has already shot down the two Republicans.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it is NOT investigating Broward elections chief Brenda Snipes. FDLE spokeswoman says the Department of State has not received any allegations of voter fraud, and that Gov. Rick Scott did not put his request in writing.
— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 9, 2018
All of this nonsense is taking place before three literally unprecedented state-wide ballot recounts – which are mandatory under state law – begin in the race for Florida’s Governor, Senator and Agriculture, and Consumer Protection Commissioner.
Florida elections supervisors have until November 10th to report unofficial election results to the state Division of Elections according to the lawsuit, but Broward has been late in tallying early voting results, which ended on Sunday and hasn’t told anyone how many votes remain.
Rick Scott also brought in high-priced Washington D.C. attorneys from the National Republican Senate Committee to file suit against the Broward Supervisor, and another lawsuit against Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.
What makes all of this so bizarre is that just six months ago Rick Scott used his official office to appointed not one, but two monitors from the state to oversee the Broward Supervisor of Elections for this election.
Broward County is also one of the most heavily Democratic-leaning counties in Florida, along with neighboring metropolitan counties Palm Beach and Miami-Dade who combine for over 5.5 million residents.
As a result of Broward’s lengthy count, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has seen his lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum dwindle since election night to below the 0.5% threshold that triggers an automatic machine recount, due by November 15th.
Governor Scott has seen his lead over Democratic Senator Bill Nelson shrink to just 0.2% which is below the quarter of a percentage point minimum for a statewide recount by hand, which is due by November 18th.
Democratic Florida Ag Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried ended election night 0.12% behind her Republican opponent Matt Caldwell but now sits 0.06% ahead in the race, leading the state party to start congratulating her on her win, but her race will also go to a mandatory statewide hand recount.
“We were always confident on election night that once the votes were counted we would be the winner of the Agriculture Commissioner race,” Nikki Fried explained by email in response to a request for comment on this story. “Now that more votes have been counted that has turned out to be the case. As the process continues, we fully expect our lead will only continue to grow.
“Florida Supervisors and Canvassing Boards are doing an incredible job,” says Fried, “of ensuring everyone’s voices are heard and the process is fair and transparent.”
Florida being Florida, there are also some pretty valid reasons for concern about Broward County Supervisor Snipes, who was appointed to the job by former Republican governor Jeb Bush in 2004. Bush used his powers of office to remove her predecessor for hiring a homeless man that lost 300 ballots, for spending one million dollars over budget and for “grave neglect, mismanagement, and incompetence.”
More recently, Snipes’ office violated state law by announcing the early vote totals before polls closed on the 2016 state primary and lost a major Sunshine lawsuit for public records – under the same law used in Scott’s suit – for destroying that same primary’s original ballots illegally.
Rick Scott’s record is scarcely any better than Snipes.
He became the first Governor in Florida history to lose a public records lawsuit, because he spent years illegally hiding his communications in a personal email account, costing taxpayers $700,000.
Gov. Scott also lost a Sunshine lawsuit by the state’s largest media organizations for breaking the state’s open meetings laws to summarily fire the widely respected former head of the FDLE without notice or meeting as required by law. That would be the same FDLE whose authority he is openly trying to abuse.
Meanwhile, Florida counties finished counting their provisional ballots late yesterday afternoon which resulted in even more votes being added to the official tallies, while overseas votes continue to trickle in and a few last ballots are still facing challenges by campaign attorneys fighting for each and every last vote.
On Saturday afternoon, Florida’s multi-race statewide recount will commence, and larger counties like Miami-Dade who must count over 800,000 votes plan to recount those votes 24 hours per day.
Buckle up, and get ready for an extra heavy dose of Florida politics at its craziest with lawsuits, political operatives, public officials and candidates scrambling and fighting around the clock for every last vote.