Broward Elections Department Under Microscope as Florida Recounts Loom

As three statewide Florida races appear heading to recounts, the focus on ballots shifted to Broward County Thursday where the supervisor of elections downplayed criticism of the delays in the tallying of ballots.

Some two days after polls closed in the county, the Broward Elections website still had early voting and vote by mail results listed as "partially reported,” and it was unknown how many ballots remained to be counted.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes appeared to blame the delays on the length of the ballot in a brief interview with NBC 6 Thursday evening.

"I thought I answered, you know we have five or six pages," Snipes said.

As votes were still being tallied, Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign announced they were suing Snipes to turn over records regarding how ballots are being counted.

"Every day since the election, the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere," Scott said at a news conference from the governor's mansion in Tallahassee Thursday night. "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."

Snipes said Thursday night she did not know about the lawsuit and therefore had no comment.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also criticized Snipes in a series of tweets Thursday, saying she has "a history of incompetence & of blatant violations of state & federal laws."

"Broward election supervisors ongoing violation of Florida law requiring timely reporting isn’t just annoying incompetence. It has opened the door for lawyers to come here & try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate & Florida Cabinet," Rubio tweeted.

Rubio also questioned how Bay County, which was hit by Hurricane Michael last month, was able to submit timely results when Broward hasn't.

"You know every politician's got to name a person something,” Snipes said in response.

As votes continued to come in Thursday, the Florida governor's race inched toward a possible state-mandated recount, as Democrat Andrew Gillum moved within 0.5 percentage point of Republican Ron DeSantis, according to figures from the Florida Supervisor of Elections Office. At the same time, the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott remained too close to call, with Scott ahead about 0.18 percent.

A third race, for the state's agriculture commissioner, is also likely heading to a recount. Republican Matt Caldwell had held a slim lead over Democrat Nikki Fried since Tuesday, but her vote total surpassed his on Thursday afternoon, when she led by more than 3,000 votes as of Friday morning, according to the Florida Supervisor of Elections.

Florida law requires a recount in races in which the winning margin is 0.5 percentage points or fewer, unless the trailing candidate says in writing that he or she doesn't want a recount. Canvassing boards conduct the recount by running ballots through vote tabulation machines.

In elections with a winning margin of 0.25 percentage points or fewer, the state requires a hand recount of ballots where machines didn't detect a vote.

Broward County, where Democrats have a large advantage, has a history of being last to have final election results. On Tuesday's election night, seven Broward precincts had problems with modems and couldn’t submit polling results electronically. Instead, the precincts had to drive the electronic results to the voting equipment center in Lauderhill for tabulation.

In May, a judge ruled that Snipes improperly destroyed ballots too early after the 2016 congressional primaries. Following his loss to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, candidate Tim Canova requested that he see the paper ballots used. He filed a lawsuit, saying Snipes prevented him from seeing the papers.

Also in 2016, Snipes was criticized after a statewide amendment on medical marijuana was left off of some absentee ballots in the county leading to a lawsuit eventually won by Snipes.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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