Republican Gov. Rick Scott accused the elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties of "rampant fraud" and announced Thursday his campaign has sued them over how they've handled counting votes since the election, as new ballots continuing to pour in have narrowed his lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
In a court hearing on Friday,a Broward County judge found the county's Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes violated public records laws.
"We've all seen the incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again," Scott said outside the front door of the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. "I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida."
Scott's campaign filed lawsuits against the supervisors — Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher — Thursday evening. He said he also directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to immediately investigate their conduct, and is considering "every single legal option available."
"It has been over 48 hours since the polls closed, and Broward and Palm Beach counties are still finding and counting ballots," Scott said when he announced the lawsuit. "And the supervisors — Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher — cannot seem to say how many ballots still exist and where these ballots came from or where they have been.
"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Broward and Palm Beach counties," he said.
In a court hearing in Broward County on Friday afternoon, Broward County Judge Lisa Phillips found that Snipes violated public records laws, and that the information Gov. Scott was requesting should be readily available and turned over immediately. "The request shall allow for the immediate access of the requested public records, and by immediate access I mean: honor by 7pm this evening," said Judge Phillips.
Snipes' legal team said they would try to comply. "We're going to make provisions. Any public record that's available will be made per the court's order by 7 'o clock," said attorney Eugene Pettis.
As the Democrat-heavy counties have counted new votes since Tuesday's election, Scott's margin has gotten smaller, now with just 15,000 votes over Nelson. The race is headed for a recount, as are the contests for governor and agriculture commissioner.
Around a hundred people congregated on Friday in front of the Boward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill to protest against Brenda Snipes. Carrying Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis signs, voters rejected what they see as the supervisor's efforts to "steal the election away."
Protesters are chanting “Stop the steal” and “Brenda Snipes has got to go” outside of the vote counting office in Lauderhill. @WLRN The canvassing board has 238 votes left to count, starting at 1 p.m. pic.twitter.com/J9E6Q97Szw
— Caitie Switalski (@caitielee0917) November 9, 2018
You can read Gov. Scott's lawsuit against Susan Bucher, Palm Beach Elections Supervisor, below or here.
You can read Gov. Scott's lawsuit against Brenda Snipes, Broward County Elections Supervisor, below or here.
Nelson's campaign has hired a lawyer to oversee the continuing process of vote counting in Broward. His campaign has been concerned about "undervoting" in the county, because thousands of people voted in the governor's race but not the Senate race. That could be because the question was listed under instructions on Broward's ballot, and some people might have missed it.
Scott delivered his statement without taking questions. At the same time, Snipes was at the voting equipment center in Lauderhill with the canvassing board reviewing questionable ballots.
The board had just started examining provisional ballots from early voting moments before Snipes was asked if she was aware of the lawsuit.
“No, I am not,” Snipes said. She did not address it any further.
Bucher, in Palm Beach, did not answer a call to her cell phone Thursday night.
The lawsuit against Snipes in Broward was filed in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court by both Scott's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It alleges Snipes' office has withheld public records showing how many ballots have been counted and how many remain to be counted.
Scott's lawsuit against the Palm Beach County supervisor, filed in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court, in part, alleges that his campaign representative was not allowed to witness the process by which elections staff create true duplicates of any ballots that may have been damaged. The lawsuit also says the county has not followed the correct review procedures for determining whether ballots are "overvoted" or "undervoted," meaning there are too many or too few bubbles filled in.
There were also issues surrounding uncounted votes in Broward during the August primary. Thousands of vote-by-mail ballots were discovered uncounted the day after the election.
There were two recounts in local races afterwards.
Snipes is still plagued by legal issues from a 2016 congressional race. In May 2018, a state judge ruled she had violated state, and federal, laws by destroying ballots early from the race in which Tim Canova challenged Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 12:30 a.m. with additional information.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 5:00 p.m. on November 9 with additional information.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Nelson's campaign had also sued Broward County over the election.