Ken Detzner is the Republican Florida Secretary of State and the official who oversees all elections in the state. He was sued on Friday by incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson over the process used to validate mail-in ballots.
Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who represents Nelson’s campaign, said the process used by Ken Detzner’s office to validate provisional ballots relies on the “untrained opinions” of poll workers to determine whether the ballot “signatures match” the voter registrations, adding there was a “complete lack of uniformity” in how workers determined the validity of the signatures.
“This serves as an outright disenfranchisement and burden on the right to vote,” Elias told reporters Friday, according to CNN.
The lawsuit comes as the margin of victory in the Florida Senate race, in which Republican Governor Rick Scott was declared the winner over incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, has shrunk to less than 0.2 percent, while the gubernatorial race which Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum conceded on Tuesday has seen the margin shrink to less than 0.5 percent, which is the threshold to trigger an automatic recount in the state.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ken Detzner is a Republican Appointed by Rick Scott, Whose Election He Now Oversees
Ken Detzner was appointed by Scott, whose Senate election he now oversees. Detzner is perhaps best known for the voter purge he conducted as Scott’s behest before the Department of Justice intervened to stop him, The Miami New Times reports. The DOJ’s civil rights division sued Detzner and Scott after they tried to purge what they called “non-citizens” from the voter rolls. Detzner personally created a list of 2,700 mostly black and Latino voters that the state apparently determined were not citizens. Only 40 of the names on the list were found to actually be noncitizens, The Washington Post reported.
Earlier this year, Detzner tried to prevent certain areas from opening early voting locations at college campuses, which a judge said “reveal[ed] a stark pattern of discrimination” after the League of Women Voters in Florida and six University of Florida students sued over the ban, arguing that it was created to artificially deflate the votes of young people.
Detzner was also one of the few secretaries of state who cooperated with President Donald Trump’s doomed “voter fraud” commission led by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Detzner also had a mild feud with Nelson during the campaign after the Florida Democrat said without any evidence that Russian hackers had “penetrated” Florida’s election systems.
The ACLU also accused Detzner of invalidating a disproportionate number of absentee ballots from black, Hispanic, and young voters, The Miami New Times reported.
2. Democrats Believe There Are Enough Votes Left to Tip Race
With early and mail-in ballots still being validated and counted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Democrats now believe there are enough votes to tip the Senate race to Nelson, who currently trails by about 15,000 votes. Nelson filed the lawsuit Friday to ask that all mail-in ballots or those “determined to involve a signature mismatch, be counted as valid votes.”
“This entirely standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable signature matching process, which has a disparate impact on People of Color and young, first time voters, violates the prohibition against undue burdens on the right to vote, enshrined under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and subjects Florida voters to disparate treatment and inconsistent standards in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause,” the lawsuit says, according to CNN.
Elias told reporters Friday that he expects Nelson to win a recount.
“I would expect when we go into a machine recount and then a hand recount, right now the results are unknown who has won, and if I had to place a bet, I would say it is more likely than not Sen. Nelson will prevail in a recount,” he said. “Fifteen thousand is a lot of votes when you are talking about an election of one million votes or two million votes. We are talking about 8.5 million votes. We are less than two-tenths of one percent. … And when viewed in that arena, it is actually quite close.”
3. Republicans Filed Their Own Lawsuit Against Democratic Election Supervisors
On Thursday, Scott held a press conference to announce that his campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had filed two lawsuits, one against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and another against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the supervisors are failing to give it to us,” Scott said. “Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties.”
He went on to accuse Elias of trying to “steal the election” and “thwart the will of the voters.”
On Friday, Scott’s campaign accused Bill Nelson of “fraud.”
“Until today, the Nelson campaign has been working on voter fraud behind the scenes in secret,” the campaign said in a statement. “With today’s filing, their desperation has driven them to ask the federal courts to allow voter fraud. They are asking courts to overrule election officials and accept ballots that were not legally cast.”
“Bill Nelson’s entire campaign has been a fraud,” the statement added. “Nelson relied on fraud when he attacked Gov. Rick Scott’s record, Nelson relied on fraud when he misrepresented his Senate record, and now he is hoping that voter fraud will help him hang on to power.”
Elias rejected the Republican claims and said the campaign will fight for every vote cast to be counted.
“It’s important every voter who cast a ballot has it counted and counted accurately,” Elias told The Orlando Sentinel. If not, “we will not hesitate to address that in the courts. We will not allow people to be disenfranchised due to administrative procedures that disadvantage minority voters.”
4. President Trump Alleges ‘Corruption’ in Florida
President Donald Trump has tweeted about the Florida race repeatedly since Thursday, accusing Democrats of trying to perpetrate a “fraud” and “steal” the election.
“As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Don’t worry, Florida – I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”
“Rick Scott was up by 50,000+ votes on Election Day, now they ‘found’ many votes and he is only up 15,000 votes,” he added. “‘The Broward Effect.’ How come they never find Republican votes?”
“Mayor Gillum conceded on Election Day and now Broward County has put him ‘back into play.’ Bill Nelson conceded Election – now he’s back in play!? This is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!” he wrote in another tweet, although Nelson did not concede his race.
“In the 2016 Election I was winning by so much in Florida that Broward County, which was very late with vote tabulation and probably getting ready to do a ‘number,’ couldn’t do it because not enough people live in Broward for them to falsify a victory!” Trump claimed without any evidence.
5. Arizona Senate, Georgia Governor Races Join Florida in The Spotlight
As mail-in ballots have continued to be counted in Arizona, despite Republican lawsuits and attempts to stop the vote count, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema took an 8,256-vote lead over Republican Martha McSally, who appeared headed for victory Tuesday night.
“But it is interesting — it always seems to go the way of the Democrats,” Trump complained to reporters Friday. “Now, in Arizona, all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes. And she’s — the other candidate — is just winning by a hair.”
Unlike in Florida, where Trump demanded votes stop being counted, Trump alleged without evidence that there was “electoral corruption” in the race and suggested calling for a new election.
The Georgia governor race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp also remains undecided as tens of thousands of provisional ballots continue to be counted. Kemp leads Abrams with 50.3 percent of the vote. If his total drops below 50 percent, the race would automatically go to a runoff.
“Brian Kemp is 25,622 votes above the threshold for a runoff election. Twenty-five thousand votes of nearly 4 million cast are at issue in this race,” Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said on Thursday. “By (Kemp’s) own admission, there are at least 25,000 outstanding votes, and hundreds if not thousands of more that we are learning about and discovering every day.”
“[Brian Kemp] ran a great race in Georgia – he won. It is time to move on!” Trump declared on Twitter.
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