A Florida judge just gave new life to Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson’s midterm election hopes (UPDATED)

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A judge in Florida’s capital just extended the deadline for one of the state’s largest counties to recount their ballots, which will impact three statewide races and a state House seat and breathe new life into the campaigns of Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Nikki Fried.

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The ancient and neglected vote-counting machines in Palm Beach County can only tally one race at a time, and couldn’t possibly have processed a recount in the tight races for governor or commissioner of agriculture by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline — which would unfairly give the wins to Republicans.

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Democratic candidate Jim Bonfiglio filed suit because the Palm Beach County election supervisor said they only had time to recount a single race, and he trails his Republican opponent by only 37 votes.

Bonfiglio asked a Leon County judge to either extend the deadline in his race only, since it’s a small count, or to extend all four races pending recounts, including the Florida Senate, Governor and Agricultural Commissioner races. Judge Karen Gievers elected to extend him, and the deadline in Palm Beach County for all three statewide races, the Palm Beach Post reports:

A Leon County circuit judge is expected to issue an order today extending the deadline for recounts in Palm Beach County on state races in question to Nov. 20, about five days after the original 3 p.m. Thursday deadline.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told The Palm Beach Post her understanding is that whatever the judge orders will be challenged by the Florida Secretary of State in the federal courts. Efforts to reach the Secretary of State [sic] and the Florida Division of Elections were unsuccessful on Tuesday afternoon.

But Florida judges in Palm Beach and Broward Counties tossed two of the GOP candidate’s lawsuits out of court already this week for lacking any legal merit, admonishing the Governor and telling him to “tone down the rhetoric.”

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His opponent, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, has taken a different approach flooding the courts with legitimate lawsuits.

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Thus far Nelson has sued to count mail-in votes with minor signature discrepancies, to count votes that the post office was late in delivering on election day and to count “unconventionally marked” ballots where Florida voters had sloppy penmanship or unique ways of marking the state’s optical scan ballots.

Tonight, only hours after Judge Gievers’ ruling, Nelson’s campaign filed another lawsuit, this time in federal court, seeking to extend the deadline for Florida’s recount across the entire Sunshine state to ensure that every last vote is counted.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans in Florida could not be more clear.

Senator Bill Nelson has fought to make sure that every Floridian vote counts, and called for Rick Scott to remove himself from any role in the recount process.

Nelson isn’t alone in seeking for the Republican governor’s removal from the gubernatorial duty of presiding over Florida’s Elections Canvassing Commission. The non-partisan League of Women Voters filed suit in federal court to forcibly remove him from that role just yesterday.

Florida GOP elected officials like Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio, and AG Pam Bondi – who was publicly chastised by the head of the state’s top law enforcement agency – are desperate to interfere in the independent operation of the state’s election machinery and throwing a hail of disinformation into the court of public opinion.

The leader of the Republican Party, President Donald Trump, chimed in on Veteran’s Day to demand that Florida’s elections officials illegally revert back to only the votes counted on election night, which would just so happen to disenfranchise the state’s many active duty servicemen whose votes count if received by November 16th.

America’s democracy is too important to allow any elected official to preside over the machinery of government to preside over their own election results.

It’s long past time for Florida’s Republicans to take a cue from Democrats with honor and character like Bill Nelson and to let every citizen’s vote count as intended.

Watch Senator Bill Nelson explain why we absolutely must count every vote here:

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UPDATE:  At 7:50 pm, while this story was being finalized, Politico reported that today’s court order is “on hold” but there is no evidence of that in the Leon County Court’s docket for the case, which does have a notice of removal to federal court by the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. There is no order of a federal court to stay the state court order in their report, so it appears that the order to extend the recount deadline is still effective at the time of this update at 10 pm on the evening of November 13th, 2018, however, the case is heading for a hearing in a North Florida federal district court.

Then, this evening the Palm Beach County’s Elections Supervisor told ABC’s local television affiliate WPBF 25 News that her counting equipment is malfunctioning.

This story is still developing…

Grant Stern

Editor at Large

Grant Stern is a columnist for the Washington Press. He's also mortgage broker, writer, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida.

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