- Florida’s midterm elections have descended into chaos.
- The secretary of state ordered recounts in three races Saturday.
- A top election official said Sunday it would be “impossible” to meet the Thursday deadline.
- Political tensions have reached a fever pitch amid baseless claims of voter fraud from Republicans including President Donald Trump.
Florida’s midterm elections descended into chaos over the weekend as three recounts were ordered and baseless claims of voter fraud arose.
Tensions reached a fever pitch after Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered automatic machine recounts for the US Senate, governor, and agricultural commissioner races in an unprecedented move.
Amid continuous baseless claims of voter fraud from President Donald Trump and Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, election officials strained under tight deadlines.
Three close races
On Election Day, Republican Rick Scott was expected to defeat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the Senate race.
However, Scott’s lead over incumbent Nelson totaled 0.15 percentage points, triggering a hand recount of undervotes and overvotes, or ballots from which tabulation machines couldn’t determine which candidate got the vote,
In the governor’s race, unofficial tallies showed Ron DeSantis leading Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5 percentage points, which triggered an automatic machine recount, the Miami Herald reported.
Democrat Nikki Fried had a 0.06 percentage point lead over Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner, which will also undergo a machine recount.
Officials in all 67 counties are expected to re-feed ballots into count tabulators by 3 p.m. on November 15 and return re-tabulated results back to the secretary of state.
Counties are free to decide when they begin their recounts, but must complete them by Thursday.
Palm Beach County’s elections chief Susan Bucher said it would be “impossible” for her department to complete a recount for the three races by Thursday, as volunteers have only eight machines to recount the hundreds of thousand votes.
Baseless claims of voter fraud
Scott said Sunday that Nelson was trying to garner votes from fraudulent ballots and those cast by noncitizens.
“He is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Scott told Fox News without offering further evidence. “Bill Nelson’s a sore loser. He’s been in politics way too long.”
No state department, including the election division Scott heads, has found any no evidence of voter fraud. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday it has not launched any investigation into election fraud.
Trump has extensively lashed out about the process, calling it a “disgrace” and tweeting Friday to suggest Democrats are behind a fraudulent agenda.
“How come they never find Republican votes?” the president wrote, citing baseless claims that Broward County officials attempted to “falsify” votes in the 2016 election as well. “This is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!” he tweeted.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed baseless claims about the election, saying he “couldn’t agree more” with Scott about “apparent shenanigans going on in Broward and Palm Beach.”
On Sunday, Scott filed lawsuits against local election officials, asking a judge to order police to impound voting machines and ballots when they’re not in use, Reuters reported.
And last week, Scott filed a lawsuit demanding records detailing the counting and collection of ballots cast, a move which political opponents said appeared to be politically motivated and a sign of desperation.
Mixed messages from candidates
Candidates have gone back and forth over the decision to call a recount. Gillum withdrew his concession Saturday, saying he was “replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote.”
In a video statement released Saturday, DeSantis said the election results were “clear and unambiguous” and he was preparing to become the state’s next governor.
He also thanked the state’s supervisors of elections, canvassing boards, and the staffs for “working hard to ensure that all lawful votes are counted.”
“It is important that everyone involved in the election process strictly adhere to the rule of law which is the foundation for our nation,” he said.