Florida Senator Marco Rubio alleged without evidence that Democratic lawyers are attempting to “steal” key statewide elections that appear headed for a recount.
The Florida gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis is separated by less than 0.5 percent and the Florida Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson is separated by less than 0.3 percent. Both races are within the margin to trigger an automatic recount, and more ballots from the Democratic stronghold Broward County remain to be counted.
Rubio took to Twitter to allege that Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias, who previously worked on recounts for former Senators Al Franken and Harry Reid and is currently working on the Nelson race, are trying to steal the elections. He provided no evidence.
“Now democrat lawyers are descending on #Florida. They have been very clear they aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted,” he wrote, adding that “Broward election supervisors ongoing violation of #Florida law requiring timely reporting isn’t just annoying incompetence. It has opened the door for lawyers to come here & try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate & Florida Cabinet.”
The Miami New Times noted that the Broward elections department “has never been accused (credibly, at least) of tampering with election results or illegally tipping the scales toward one candidate. There’s also zero evidence that the Democratic ‘lawyers’ Rubio references are up to anything more nefarious than normal.”
Vote totals have changed drastically from election night as the Broward County ballots come in. Broward County is more than ten times the size of Bay County, which Rubio cited in his tweet storm.
According to Fox News, DeSantis now leads Gillum by just 38,515 votes, roughly 0.47 percent. Any margin under 0.5 percent automatically triggers a machine recount, unless the candidate formally declines. Gillum conceded the race on election night but now says he’s “looking forward to seeing every vote counted.”
“On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count,” Gillum’s campaign said in a statement as the new votes came in. “Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”
The margin in the Senate race between Nelson and Scott is under the 0.25 percent threshold that triggers a manual hand recount, a time-consuming process that can drag out for weeks. The statewide race for Florida agriculture commissioner, where Democrat Nikki Fried leads Republican Matt Caldwell by 0.16 percent, is also expected to go to a recount.
Elias told The Orlando Sentinel that media outlets were wrong to call both races on Tuesday with so many outstanding ballots.
“I think it’s fair to say right now the results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown, and [media] and elections officials should treat it as such,” he told the outlet.
Elias noted that more than 24,000 ballots in Broward County registered a vote for a gubernatorial candidate but not a Senate candidate.
“The scanning equipment may not have caught it,” he said. “The intent is clear, but the machine couldn’t pick it up.”
Scott’s campaign, like Rubio, accused Elias and the Democrats of trying to “steal” the election.
“For Bill Nelson, the task is getting the ‘win’ …no matter what. Let’s be clear: When Elias says ‘win,’ he means ‘steal.’ It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken,” Scott spokesman Chris Hartline told The Sentinel.
Elias rejected anything nefarious and said every vote must be counted.
“It’s important every voter who cast a ballot has it counted and counted accurately,” Elias said. 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.”