A heated controversy over Broward County’s vote-counting process intensified over the weekend as the county met a noon deadline on Saturday to send the state its final election results.
With three tight statewide races now headed for recounts, dozens of Democrats flocked to the Broward elections office on Saturday to demand that every vote be counted. They confronted Republican demonstrators who, without evidence, have accused embattled election supervisor Brenda Snipes of election fraud.
“We thought that it was important for the community to show support for the law to be followed,” said Dequasia Canales who is with the Service Employees International Union and helped organize the Democratic protest. “It’s in response to the theories that started coming out about two days ago when Republicans said Democrats want to steal this election.”
The protest on Saturday was another highlight of a bitter partisan fight that has rattled the state, left several races contested and stirred up memories of a contentious Florida recount of the 2000 presidential election.
Snipes’ office met a statewide deadline on Saturday for all 67 counties to submit their election results. Secretary of State Ken Detzner has now confirmed that the governor, U.S. Senate, agriculture commissioner and three other races will see machine recounts over the next five days.
All six races are within the 0.5 percentage point margin for a legally required recount.
The U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner contests may also head to hand recounts with both separated by fewer than 0.25 percentage points. Democrat Nikki Fried on Saturday still declared herself the next agriculture commissioner after recently taking a slight lead over Republican Matt Caldwell.
“We believe that the process is going to take its time and, at the end of it, we will be victorious,” Fried said a few miles away from the protest.
She added that she has already assembled her transition team consisting of former Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rep. Darren Soto and Fred Guttenberg, the gun-control activist whose daughter was killed in the Parkland school shooting.
The recount also prompted Democrat Andrew Gillum to retract his earlier concession in a tightening governor's race. Gillum now trails Republican Ron DeSantis by about 33,600 votes.
In the Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott leads incumbent Bill Nelson by 12,562 votes.
Snipes, an elected Democrat, has faced accusations that her office botched the vote-counting process and committed election fraud as the races have narrowed. On Friday, a circuit court ruled that she broke public records laws and ordered her to release to Scott’s Senate campaign Broward’s voter tabulations.
The supervisor also admitted that she inadvertently counted about a dozen rejected ballots. And she mistakenly included 22 improperly-cast ballots in the vote total sent to the Secretary of State on Saturday, fueling calls from Republicans for the state to take over her office.
Palm Beach elections supervisor Susan Bucher has also faced accusations of withholding critical information about ballot counts.
On Sunday, Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi escalated unfounded suspicions of voter fraud. In a letter to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Bondi—a Scott ally—said she "was deeply troubled" FDLE has not opened an investigation into criminal activity.
"Your duty to investigate is clear," she added. "I am directing you to take the necessary steps to promote public safety and to assure that our state will guarantee integrity in the election process."
Bondi sent another letter to Detzner, asking him to report any instances of fraud to the Office of State Prosecution, which is under the attorney general's jurisdiction.
FDLE has said it is not investigating fraud because Detzner's office has not reported any instances of it. The Secretary of State's office said again Sunday night that state observers at the Broward elections office have not found evidence of fraud.
For Republican protestors, the lack of proof didn't matter. Janet Klomburg has protested at the office for several days and cited past legal issues involving Snipes, who violated state and federal laws by destroying ballots from a congressional race in 2016.
“Brenda Snipes has a history this long. Longer than Al Capone...It goes on and on," said Janet Klomburg, who stood among several protestors waving "Trump Make America Great Again" flags.
Some Democrats at the rally also accused the Broward supervisor of incompetence, but noted that ballots were especially long this year, making it harder to count them. They were more concerned that votes across the state were not appropriately counted and that Republicans were impeding the process.
“Let the supervisor of elections do what she needs to do,” said Democratic protestor Pat Diaz. “You have no evidence that corruption is going on. But because it’s not going [Republicans’] way—it’s a big nonsense.”
UPDATE: This article was updated at 9:30 p.m. on November 11 with additional information.