TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott says he and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have filed a lawsuit against Palm Beach County's Election Supervisor Susan Bucher and Broward County's Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes.
During a news conference Thursday night, Scott claimed that the two elections officials have both failed to provide information about outstanding ballots have yet to be counted.
- Broward, Palm Beach counties still counting ballots
- Gillum campaign now preparing for recount
- Florida requires machine recount if vote margins are .5% or less
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Scott also says he is directing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the issue, accusing "liberal activists" of trying to "steal the election."
"Every day since the election, the leftwing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere," Scott said in his statement. " We all know what is going on. Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding more votes until the elections turn out the way they want."
Scott went on to say that only Broward and Palm Beach counties were involved in what he called "shenanigans."
"There are no other counties — Republican or Democrat — that are trying to steal this election, or who are still finding ballots," he went on.
Following Scott's presser, Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign issued a statement in response to Gov. Scott:
“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.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum released the following statement via Twitter:
Florida House of Representatives Speaker-designate Jose R. Olivia supported Scott's direction.
In a statement, he said, "As the other 65 counties know too well, this is not the first time Palm Beach and Broward counties have failed its citizens - but it should be the last. I fully support and commend the Governor for directing FDLE to investigate. The power of the vote is only as strong as the trust in the count. With each new ballot ‘found’ that trust erodes.”
The latest vote totals from the state of Florida show three races are now headed for a mandatory recount, with the vote margin in the U.S. Senate race now down to only .18 percent.
The Florida Division of Elections data shows Republican Rick Scott is leading Democrat Bill Nelson, 50.09 percent to 49.91 percent.
The Division of Elections website also shows that Republican Ron DeSantis has 49.61 percent of the vote in the governor's race, while Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum has 49.17 percent, a vote margin of .44 percent.
According to Florida law, if a vote margin reaches .5 percent or less, an automatic machine recount is triggered statewide.
If, after the recount, the vote margin is .25 percent or less, then a manual recount is conducted statewide.
The campaign for Andrew Gillum announced Thursday it was bringing on Barry Richard, a lawyer who worked on the Florida recount in 2000, to handle operations for a possible statewide recount.
Meanwhile, the campaign for Bill Nelson has brought on attorney Marc Elias to handle its recount effort, which at this point appears to be a certainty.
In a conference call with county elections supervisors Thursday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that counties should prepare for recounts.
Senate Race Recount Already Triggered
The vote margin in the Senate race is at .18 percent, less than the threshold for a manual recount.
Early voting and vote-by-mail ballots are still being counted in Broward County, while vote-by-mail ballots are still being counted in Palm Beach County. Both are heavily Democratic.
Elias said he's concerned that a third of the votes in the Florida Senate race are still unknown. He also told reporters on a conference call Thursday morning that there was significant undervoting in Broward County for the Senate race, where he said many voters didn't cast a vote for that race. Elias said it was odd that the undervoting was happening at the top of the ticket, rather than downballot.
Broward County still counting early voting
More ballots have apparently been found in Broward County. On Thursday afternoon, the Supervisor of Elections website reported that 695,799 ballots were cast. By Thursday evening, that number jumped to 712,840.
But so far, they have only tabulated 682,073 ballots in the Senate race.
The county is making some progress. It now says vote-by-mail ballots are completely reported. But early voting ballots are still being tabulated.
The Scott campaign, which declared victory Tuesday night, called Nelson "sad" for not conceding the race.
“It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken,” said a statement from the Scott campaign Wednesday.
Even if Nelson had conceded, state law would have required the recount anyway.
"I believe Sen. Nelson will prevail," Elias said.
Florida Governor's Race Margin Tightens
The Florida governor's race appeared to be all but settled Tuesday night when Gillum conceded to DeSantis.
"On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count," said a statement sent by the Gillum campaign Thursday. "Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported."
The DeSantis campaign has not yet commented on the possibility of an automatic recount, but DeSantis was expected to meet with reporters in South Florida this afternoon.
Democrat Takes Lead for Ag Commissioner
The race for Florida agricultural commissioner was already a tight one on Election Night, but with new ballot returns, the Democratic candidate took a razor-thin lead Thursday.
As of that afternoon, Nikki Fried led Matt Caldwell by just 575 votes, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
On Wednesday, Caldwell led Fried by a .10 percent margin, or just 8,254 votes.
A Race to Fix Provisional Ballots
Both political parties and voting groups are now pushing to find people who cast provisional ballots throughout Florida to get them to submit whatever information is needed to fix, or "cure," the ballot.
Provisional ballots are given to voters because their eligibility to vote is challenged for some reason, such as an address discrepancy or a forgotten accepted ID.
Voters with issues are supposed to cast provisional ballots, and then, if necessary, provide any additional evidence that their ballots should be accepted.
The deadline to provide that information to the voter's county Supervisor of Elections Office was 5 p.m. Thursday.
These ballots are the last to be counted and are verified by county canvassing boards.
Nelson attorney Elias said historically, more Democrats cast provisional ballots than Republicans.
The Gillum campaign also thinks that if an automatic recount is triggered in the governor race, provisional ballots will be essential.
It's unknown how many provisional ballots have been cast statewide in Florida this year. In 2016, there were 24,460 provisional ballots submitted, with 10,998 ballots ultimately being counted, according to the Florida Division of Elections.