Senate Group Aims to Block Nelson's Bid for Rejected Ballots

(Bloomberg) -- The organization that supports Republican candidates for U.S. Senate is pressing to end Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson’s hail-Mary lawsuit to count vote-by-mail and provisional ballots in Florida that were rejected over mismatched signatures.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee said the group, called the National Republican Senatorial Committee, can intervene on behalf of Nelson’s challenger, Rick Scott. Scott, currently the governor of Florida, has declared himself the winner and says the votes shouldn’t be counted.

“Elections should be decided according to established laws enacted by the lawmaking branch of government -- not by post-hoc manipulations of the laws in the interest of one candidate,” the NRSC said. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi also won permission to intervene.

During a brief telephone hearing Friday, Nelson’s lawyer asked Hinkle to issue an emergency order before noon on Saturday to beat a deadline for Florida counties to report provisional-ballot tallies. Instead, the judge set another hearing for Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. in Tallahassee.

Nelson wants Hinkle to order county officials to count all mail-in and provisional ballots, regardless of perceived irregularities between the signature on the ballot envelope and the signature on the voter’s registration application. Scott’s backers say Nelson wants the court to discard state law.

The law is arbitrary, Nelson says, because there are no statewide standards for how to determine if two signatures match. Hinkle asked several questions about that, saying the parties should be prepared to answer if he asks “how does that square with Bush versus Gore?”

Separately, Scott’s campaign has filed lawsuits against elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties over the process used to count certain ballots.

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