Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed lawsuits Sunday calling for voting machines to be impounded in two Democratic-leaning counties, after accusing his opponents of voter fraud.
Amid an acrimonious recount in his Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott has alleged a conspiracy by “unethical liberals” to steal the election, although authorities say they’ve seen no evidence to back up those claims.
A machine recount was launched Saturday, as Scott’s lead shrunk to 12,500 votes, or 0.15 percent — below the threshold under which a recount is automatically triggered.
In the lawsuit filed Sunday, Scott called on a judge to issue an emergency injunction requiring sheriffs in Broward and Palm Beach counties to impound all voting machines and ballots whenever they’re not being used in the recount — until the end of the recount and any legal action relating to the closely fought race.
Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott’s campaign, said in a statement that election supervisors in both counties had “already demonstrated a blatant disregard for Florida’s elections laws, making it more important than ever that we continue to do everything possible to prevent fraud and ensure this recount is operated responsibly.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on the recount Monday, tweeting that the election should be called in Scott’s favor due to the count being “massively infected” with missing or forged ballots, a dangerous claim floated without evidence.
A separate suit, filed late Saturday, asked that the judge order any ballots counted after noon on Saturday to be disregarded, alleging that votes in Broward County were counted after the noon deadline.
“Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election,” Scott said on Fox News Sunday. “That’s all this is.”
Nelson said the lawsuits represented a bid by Scott “to stop every legal vote from being counted,” and showed that his opponent was panicking. Scott had seen his slim lead shrink even further as mail-in and provisional ballots rolled in.
“He's doing this for the same reason he's been making false and panicked claims about voter fraud: He's worried that when all the votes are counted, he'll lose this election,” Nelson said.
“We will not allow him to undermine the democratic process and will use every legal tool available to protect the rights of Florida voters.”
The tense recount, with litigation mounting from both sides, has echoes of the 2000 presidential race in the state that saw a recount drag on for weeks. Nelson’s team has already filed their own federal lawsuit asking that mail-in ballots not be rejected on the grounds that election officials consider the signatures not to match with their files.
Cover image: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott addresses supporters at his midterm election night party in Naples, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Joe Skipper)