Echoes Of 2000 As Florida Once Again In The Spotlight For Vote Tallies
It may be more than a week until clear winners emerge in several statewide elections in Florida, including the race for U.S. Senator and Governor.
Ballots are still being counted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and the supervisors of elections there have until noon Saturday to submit final results to the secretary of state.
Less than .5% separates the candidates in both races, which automatically triggers a machine recount under Florida law. If the margin of victory is 0.25% of below, the recount will be by hand.
It’s all bringing back memories of year 2000, when the U.S. presidential race was decided 36 days after Election Day in favor of Republican George W. Bush after numerous legal challenges. Voting irregularities were also uncovered across the state. In the end Bush became the 43rd president with a lead of fewer than 1,000 votes, or .01%.
“We’re not known as ‘Floriduh’ for nothing,” Diane Roberts, a writer who teaches at Florida State University, said Friday on the Florida Roundup. “This state doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to voting.”
The events of 2000 were high drama: Al Gore conceded to Bush in the early morning hours of Nov. 8. Shortly thereafter, Bush's lead shrunk to less than 2,000 votes, which triggered an automatic recount.
Then, concerns about voting irregularities emerged in places like Palm Beach County, where a punch-card ballot resulted in the famous “hanging chads” that disqualified votes.
“Al Gore conceded, un-conceded, then conceded again,” Roberts said.
Ultimately, 47 lawsuits related to the election were filed in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made the final decision.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, now leads incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 15,000 votes, or just .18%.
The race for agriculture commissioner also appears to be headed for a hand recount, as Democrat Nikki Fried leads Republican Matt Caldwell by just 3,000 votes, or .04%.
On Thursday, Republican Gov. Rick Scott accused the elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both Democrats, of "rampant fraud" and announced his campaign has sued them over how they've handled counting votes since the election. He also threatened to send law enforcement to investigate.
"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."
On the Florida Roundup Friday, Roberts called Scott’s threat to send law enforcement “a police state move and a bad move.”
"Impartial organizers and observers, people who actually know what they're doing, would be a good idea," she said.
“Having said that, the Broward voting supervisor’s office, the whole Broward voting enterprise, has been a god awful mess for 20 years, probably longer than that, we just started paying attention in 2000,” she added.
Conservative Media Producer and Writer Myra K. Adams said on the Florida Roundup that she’s concerned by the “volume and emotion being ratcheted up” around the vote tallying.
President Trump echoed Scott's claims of a liberal ploy Thursday and Friday, tweeting that he would send "Law Enforcement" and "lawyers" to look into “election fraud” in Florida.
“He’s already tweeted out that there was fraud in Broward County ... with no evidence,” Adams said.
Steve Newborn, the assistant news director of WUSF, said it's "entirely plausible" that the Senate race could go to the Florida Supreme Court.
"It might end up there," he said. "They're the court of last opinion on this. It's entirely plausible it will head that way because it's so close."
In the race for governor, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis leads Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum by 36,000 votes, or .44%.
In a great irony, Gillum’s lawyer is Barry Richard, a Democrat who was Bush’s lawyer during the 2000 Florida recount.