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Protests,Litigation Dominate FL Recount11/12 06:13

   Mishaps, protests and litigation are overshadowing the vote recount in 
Florida's pivotal races for governor and Senate, reviving memories of the 2000 
presidential fiasco in the premier political battleground state.

   FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Mishaps, protests and litigation are 
overshadowing the vote recount in Florida's pivotal races for governor and 
Senate, reviving memories of the 2000 presidential fiasco in the premier 
political battleground state.

   All 67 counties are facing a state-ordered deadline of Thursday to complete 
their recounts and half already had begun. Many other counties were expected to 
begin the work Monday after a weekend of recount drama in Broward and Palm 
Beach counties, home to large concentrations of Democratic voters.

   The developments added up to a tumultuous political day in Florida. More 
than half of Florida's 67 counties began a recount process that's unprecedented 
even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin margins. State 
officials said they weren't aware of any other time a race for governor or U.S. 
Senate required a recount, let alone both in the same election.

   In Broward County, the recount was delayed for hours Sunday because of a 
problem with one of the tabulation machines. That prompted the Republican Party 
to slam Broward's supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, for "incompetence and 
gross mismanagement."

   Broward officials faced further headaches after acknowledging the county 
mistakenly counted 22 absentee ballots that had been rejected. The problem 
seemed impossible to fix because dismissed ballots were mixed in with 205 legal 
ballots and Snipes said it would be unfair to throw out all the votes.

   Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Senate, filed suit against 
Snipes. He was seeking a court order for law enforcement agents to impound all 
voting machines, tallying devices and ballots "when not in use until such time 
as any recounts." The suit accused Snipes of repeatedly failing to account for 
the number of ballots left to be counted and failing to report results 
regularly as required by law.

   The court didn't immediately respond, though the outcry from Democrats was 
immediate.

   Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, accused 
Scott of "using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core 
of our democracy."

   Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, the supervisor of elections said she didn't 
think her department could meet Thursday's deadline to complete that recount, 
throwing into question what would happen to votes there.

   The recount in other major population centers, including Miami-Dade and 
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the Tampa Bay area, has been continuing 
without incident. Smaller counties were expected to begin reviews between 
Monday and Wednesday.

   State officials said they weren't aware of any other time a race for 
governor or U.S. Senate required a recount, let alone both in the same 
election. The recount process in the two nationally watched midterm races is 
unprecedented even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin 
margins.

   Unofficial results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis led 
Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in the 
governor's contest. In the Senate race, Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent 
Bill Nelson was 0.14 percentage points.

   State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 
0.5 percentage points. Once completed, if the differences in any of the races 
are 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered.

   As the recount unfolded, Republicans urged their Democratic opponents to 
give up and let the state to move on.

   Scott said Sunday that Nelson wants fraudulent ballots and those cast by 
noncitizens to count, pointing to a Nelson lawyer objecting to Palm Beach 
County's rejection of one provisional ballot because it was cast by a 
noncitizen.

   "He is trying to commit fraud to win this election," Scott told Fox News. 
"Bill Nelson's a sore loser. He's been in politics way too long."

   Nelson's campaign issued a statement later saying their lawyer wasn't 
authorized to object to the ballot's rejection as "Non-citizens cannot vote in 
US elections."

   In Fort Lauderdale, Gillum appeared at a predominantly African-American 
church Sunday evening, warning against vote suppression and declaring voter 
disenfranchisement isn't just about being blocked from the polling booth. He 
said it also includes absentee ballots not being counted and ballots with 
mismatched signatures that "a volunteer may have the option of ... deciding 
that vote is null and void."

   Gillum and Nelson have argued each vote should be counted and the process 
should take its course.

   Both the state elections division, which Scott runs, and the Florida 
Department of Law Enforcement have said they have found no evidence of voter 
fraud.

   That didn't stop protests outside Snipes' office, where a crowd of mostly 
Republicans gathered, holding signs, listening to country music and 
occasionally chanting "lock her up," referring to Snipes. A massive Trump 2020 
flag flew over the parking lot and many members of a Bikers For Trump group 
wore matching shirts, mingling among a crowd that included a protester wearing 
a Hillary Clinton mask.

   Registered independent Russell Liddick, a 38-year-old Pompano Beach retail 
worker, carried a sign reading, "I'm not here for Trump! I'm here for fair 
elections! Fire Snipes!" He said the office's problems "don't make me feel very 
much like my vote counted."

   Florida is also conducting a recount in a third statewide race. Democrat 
Nikki Fried had a 0.07 percentage point lead over Republican state Rep. Matt 
Caldwell for agriculture commissioner, one of Florida's three Cabinet seats.

   For some, the recounts bring back memories of the 2000 presidential recount, 
when it took more than five weeks for Florida to declare George W. Bush the 
victor over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes, thus giving Bush the 
presidency.

   Much has changed since then.

   In 2000, each county had its own voting system. Many used punch cards --- 
voters poked out chads, leaving tiny holes in their ballots representing their 
candidates. Some voters, however, didn't fully punch out the presidential chad 
or gave it just a little push. Those hanging and dimpled chads had to be 
examined by the canvassing boards, a lengthy, tiresome and often subjective 
process that became fodder for late-night comedians.

   Now the state requires all Florida counties to use ballots where voters use 
a pen to mark their candidate's name, much like a student taking a 
multiple-choice test. And how counts proceed is now clearly spelled out.


(KA)

 
 
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