Florida is in chaos as thousands of ballots remain uncounted, and the outcome of the state's key elections could remain unclear for weeks

Mark Wallheiser/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.
  • Since Tuesday, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have become mired in controversy over uncounted votes.
  • But nowhere is the chaos more dramatic than in Florida, where two major South Florida counties – Broward and Palm Beach – have yet to count thousands of votes.
  • Several races, including the Senate and gubernatorial contests, are approaching the 0.5-percentage-point margin that would trigger an automatic recount.

Since Tuesday, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have become mired in controversy over uncounted votes.

But nowhere is the chaos more dramatic than in Florida, where two major Democratic-leaning South Florida counties – Broward and Palm Beach – are still tallying thousands of votes as the margin between the Senate and gubernatorial candidates approaches the recount threshold:

  • Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has not conceded to his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, though Scott declared victory on Tuesday night.
  • In the governor’s race, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, conceded on Tuesday night. But since then, the Republican Ron DeSantis’ lead has fallen to a margin of 0.44 percentage points, just below the automatic recount threshold. On Thursday, Gillum’s campaign indicated it was “ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”

Republicans are charging that elections officials in the two counties have a record of “incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations” and pointing to a recent court ruling that Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor, oversaw the illegal destruction of votes in a 2016 congressional contest. The office is under state monitoring.

Snipes has not released the total number of ballots yet to be counted. She said Thursday that mail-in and provisional ballots were being counted as quickly as possible but that her office had been slowed by their volume.

The battle over the future of Florida – and the Senate – could continue for weeks as recounts and lawsuits commence:

  • As of Friday morning, Scott led Nelson by about 15,000 votes, and DeSantis led Gillum by about 36,000 votes.
  • All of Florida’s 67 counties have until noon on Saturday to send their unofficial vote counts to Florida’s Division of Elections.
  • As of Thursday evening, ballots collected in Broward County showed that almost 25,000 people voted in the governor’s race but not in the Senate race. Democrats have blamed the fact that Senate box appeared in a corner of the ballot beneath the instructions, saying many voters missed it.
  • Florida’s secretary of state, a Scott appointee, is tasked with overseeing state-mandated recounts.
  • Six races could have recounts: US Senate, governor, state agriculture commissioner, a state Senate race, and two state House races.
  • Machine recounts must be completed by 3 p.m. on Thursday. The state will allow three more days for manual recounts if the margin between two candidates is less than 0.25 percentage points.
Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum with his wife, RJ, won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesAndrew Gillum — with his wife, RJ — is the state’s Democratic nominee for governor.

GOP spreads unproven accusations of fraud

There is no evidence that the votes being counted in Broward County are illegitimate, but that has not prevented Scott and his allies, including President Donald Trump, from making those claims.

On Thursday, Scott and Senate Republicans filed a lawsuit demanding the recount be halted.

Both Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have implied that Broward County election officials are committing fraud by miscounting or creating votes.

“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be a rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties,” Scott said Thursday. “Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want.”


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Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, alleged in a series of tweets that the county was “creating” votes and that a person would have to be “naive, even simple minded not to recognise” that Democrats regularly engage in voter fraud.

No widespread voter fraud has been uncovered in American elections in recent years, despite several investigations. Trump’s commission to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 elections found no wrongdoing, and after it was disbanded last January, one of its members slammed the White House for making false claims to support Trump’s unsubstantiated ones.

“Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach,”Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Florida voted for Rick Scott!”

On Friday morning, Trump told reporters that Snipes had a “horrible history,” adding, “What’s going on in Florida is a disgrace.”

“You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia – but the Election was on Tuesday?” he tweeted later in the morning. “Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!”

Meanwhile, Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and informal Trump adviser, said in an interview with Scott on his program on Thursday evening that “somebody needs to go to jail” as a result of the delayed vote counts in Broward County because Scott “won this race hands down.”

“It is obviously corrupt,” Hannity said. “Obviously, laws were broken. Obviously, there are shenanigans here.”

Several lawmakers have also weighed in, with Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar urging a recount.

On Thursday, Rubio tweeted a video purporting to show Broward County election officials transporting ballots in private cars, fanning the flames of the conspiracy theories.

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