Democrats Accuse Trump of ‘Bullying’ in Bitter Florida Recount

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused President Donald Trump and Florida Republicans of “bullying” local election officials as the increasingly bitter fight over recounts in the Senate and governor’s races lurched through courts.

Both sides on Tuesday accused the other of undermining faith in the election system as two key contests in the pivotal swing state remained unresolved a week after the midterm election.

“This is a large dangerous step away from the democracy we all cherish,” Schumer of New York said of calls by Trump and other Republicans to halt or limit the recounts. “It is a bedrock principle of our democracy that every vote is counted.”

Lawyers for incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who is trailing Republican Rick Scott by about 12,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast, filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday seeking an extension of the deadline for recounting all votes statewide in the Senate race.

Florida Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio, have joined with Trump voicing outrage over a recount process they say is designed to steal Florida’s state-wide races from GOP candidates who were ahead on election night. Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the situation, claiming without evidence that the vote tally is tainted and that the initial results from election night -- which had Scott and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis ahead -- should stand.

“When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” he tweeted on Tuesday morning.

In Limbo

The Florida race between Nelson and Scott, the state’s governor, is one of two Senate contests still unresolved after election day. Mississippi will have a runoff on Nov. 27 for a Senate seat there. On Monday, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner in Arizona. Republicans there largely refrained from accusations of fraud or misconduct as Sinema pulled past Republican Representative Martha McSally during a lengthy vote counting process.

McSally called Sinema to concede and she congratulated her opponent in a Twitter post, writing, “I wish her success and am grateful to all those who supported me in this journey,”

Schumer contrasted the reaction by Republicans in Arizona and Scott’s conduct as both governor and candidate. Nelson called on Scott to recuse himself from taking any action as governor on the election, saying his baseless claims about fraud and malfeasance show he’s incapable of overseeing the process “in a fair and impartial way.”

Broward County

Republicans have focused their accusations mostly on Broward County, the Democratic-leaning county just north of Miami-Dade that’s state’s second most populous. They have brought up a history of mistakes made by Brenda Snipes, the county’s election supervisor, but Florida’s Department of State says it hasn’t seen evidence of an actual crime pertaining to the current vote-counting in Broward.

For his part, Rubio said in a tweet Tuesday: "No fraud? Fine. Then what is the right word for Broward submitting vote totals that include ballots disqualified by the canvassing board?" Indeed, Snipes’s office mixed some 22 void ballots among 205 provisional ballots sent to the canvassing board last week.

In a suit asking that equipment and ballots in Broward County be impounded, Scott accused Snipes of failing to regularly report vote counts and repeatedly failing to account for outstanding ballots.

Snipes’ “continuing refusal or inability to comply with Florida election law or to conduct the 2018 election with an acceptable level of transparency and professionalism threatens to undermine public trust in the election process,” the suit says.

No Evidence

Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter rejected Scott’s request, asserting that there was no evidence of counting fraud. Instead, Tuter ordered that three deputies were to be added to the team of Broward police officers and private security guards overseeing the recount.

Tuter also warned lawyers on the Republican and Democratic sides to tamp down the political rhetoric.

There have been irregularities in other counties too, which Republicans have ignored. In the heavily-Republican Florida Panhandle, the Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen told an NBC-TV affiliate that he took 147 ballots by email from voters who were displaced by Hurricane Michael. An executive order made allowances for hurricane victims, but the order said explicitly: "Voting by fax or email is not an option."

The recount process is mandated by a Florida law passed in the wake of the 2000 election in which a Supreme Court decision ended a disputed recount, which awarded the presidency to George W. Bush weeks after the vote. The law requires a machine recount of any race that is within half of a percentage point, followed by a manual recount if that tally shows the race within a quarter of a percentage point.

The Senate race, along with the election for governor and agriculture commissioner, meet this threshold for review.

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