Developing: Judge Rules Broward County Violated Constitution, Broke Records Laws
The midterm elections were held on Tuesday and, mere hours after polls had officially closed, the vast majority of voting precincts across the nation had tabulated the votes and declared winners, save for a handful of close races scattered around the country.
Two of those close races that have yet to be called are in Florida — the Senate and Governor’s race — and appear likely to be headed for automatic recounts. Even that remains unclear, however, as two Democrat stronghold counties in south Florida — Broward and Palm Beach — have yet to submit any of the vote total information that was required by state law within hours of polls closing, even as we are now three days out from the election.
As allegations of potential vote fraud continue to mount — the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes, has quite a history of such — lawyers have flocked to the scene.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott — whose presumed election to the Senate hangs in the balance — decried the suspected fraud, suggested there should be a full investigation and filed a lawsuit against the counties to compel their compliance with state election laws.
WTVJ in Miami reported that an immediate hearing on the lawsuit was held in a Broward County Circuit Court on Friday, where Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled in favor of Scott and declared that Broward County election officials were in violation of both Florida’s state constitution and the public records act.
BREAKING: Judge finds Broward County violated constitution by not following open records laws, orders election officials to comply by 7pm. Ruling does not address allegations of fraud. @nbc6 pic.twitter.com/M1rK2RPsWj
— Jamie Guirola (@jamieNBC6) November 9, 2018
Furthermore, the judge ordered Snipes to either turn over or allow full inspection of all the voting records in question before 7 pm Friday. However, the ruling did not address the allegations of potential voter fraud perpetrated by Broward officials.
At issue is information regarding the total number of ballots yet to be reviewed by the Canvassing Board, absentee ballots and early-voting ballots.
The absentee and early-voting information was supposed to have been submitted to the Florida Secretary of State’s office within 30 minutes of polls closing, something that 65 of the 67 counties in the state had no problem accomplishing.
Lawyers for Scott argued that Broward officials should have already had all of that information compiled by Election Day — as is required by law — and that it would only take county officials mere minutes to provide to state officials. But attorneys for Snipes argued that doing so would interfere in their continuing efforts to count and review all of the ballots cast in Broward County.
In the meantime, the campaigns of both incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum — both of whom appeared to have lost Tuesday night — have made preparations for recounts in their races as the margins have tightened up to within a half percentage point.
As votes continue to be slowly counted in Broward and Palm Beach, and as several reports have emerged of “thousands” of ballots being suddenly discovered in the days after the election, the margin in the Senate race has steadily dwindled to a mere 0.21 percent in Scott’s favor. The margin in the Governor’s race has tightened to 0.47 percent in favor of Republican candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis.
In addition to the lawsuit against Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Gov. Scott also requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to open investigations into their respective elections offices to determine why the vote counting was taking so long and whether there were any suspicious activities underway to fraudulently inflate the number of votes for Democratic candidates, as has been alleged.
“I will not stand idly by as unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said in a statement Thursday.
Though state law requires county election offices to submit the absentee and early-voting numbers shortly after polls close on Election Day, all offices have until noon on Saturday to submit their complete unofficial vote count, which would include all absentee, early-vote, Election Day votes and provisional ballots.
In remains to be seen if the county election officials will turn over the required information as ordered by the judge, or how this lawsuit — and potential investigations and recounts — will play out over the next few days and weeks.
One thing that has been made clear, though, is that any suspicious activity by election officials that could have an impact on a close race will be called out, closely examined and dealt with if necessary, as we have seen this sort of thing before too many times, and aren’t about to tolerate such electoral shenanigans any longer.
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