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Rick Scott Sues Hillsborough Elections Supervisor For Access To Ballot Recount

Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer stands in front of the glass windows leading into the recount tabulation room
Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer stands in front of the glass windows leading into the recount tabulation room

Rick Scott's campaign for Senate has filed another lawsuit. This time, the target is Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer.

The suit accuses Latimer's office of breaking Florida law by not allowing observers into the room where the county's ballots are being recounted.

The suit says state law allows for one representative from each political party to be allowed into the tabulation room. 

The lawsuit states: "Rule 1S-2.031(2)(f) is unambiguous and plainly entitles permissible representatives to be present for observation in the same room in which the recount is taking place. While the general public and media may be required to observe the recount from a separate observation area, authorized representatives of candidates and political parties must be able to observe the recount in the same room."

"For the  elections at issue, Rule 1S-2.031 clearly  mandates that the Republican side is entitled to three representatives inside the room where any recounts are being conducted (one representative  for  Governor  Scott,  one  representative  for  Matt  Caldwell  (whose  race  for Commissioner of Agriculture is also subject to a machine recount), and one representative for the Republican Party of Florida."

Latimer has allowed outside observers to view the recount through glass windows at their main office in Brandon.

Gerri Kramer, a spokeswoman for the elections office, said she could not comment on ongoing litigation, but says they are following the letter of the law.

"Many counties have a setup like ours where we have representatives viewing the proceedings through windows," she said.

Scott leads incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by about 12,500 votes statewide - a lead of 0.14 percent. The deadline for the automatic recount is Thursday. 

Once completed, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered.

On Sunday, Latimer started the process of having machines tabulate 526,000 ballots for the recounts. But drawing on his experience, he doesn't expect the outcomes to differ.

"I do not expect to see significant change," he said.

Along with the U.S. Senate race, statewide recounts are being held for governor, where Republican Ron DeSantis holds a lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum; and Agriculture Commissioner, where Democrat Nikki Fried leads Republican Matt Caldwell.

Hillsborough is also recounting a state Senate seat where Democrat Janet Cruz holds a slight lead over incumbent Republican Dana Young.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.