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Elections

Trump on ‘Broward Effect’: ‘How Come They Never Find Republican Votes?’

Rick Scott on election night in Naples, Fla., November 6, 2018 (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

President Trump called attention Thursday to the lack of transparency surrounding the unusually slow vote count in Broward County, Fla. and seemed to suggest corruption best explains the continued emergence of Democratic votes days after the polls closed.

Three days after Tuesday’s election, Broward County election officials continue to report previously uncounted mail-in absentee ballots. When polls closed on Tuesday night, Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott led Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson by nearly 60,000 votes, but the margin has slowly narrowed to roughly 15,000 votes as Broward and Palm Beach continue to report absentee ballots.

Complicating matters, Broward County Board of Elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, who has previously been found guilty of violating federal elections law, refuses to say how many ballots remain uncounted.

Snipes’s refusal to report how many absentee ballots remain uncounted has prompted legal action on the part of Florida Republicans, who allege she is in violation of state law, which requires that officials disclose the number of absentee ballots they’ve received within 30 minutes of polls’ closing. In addition to filing legal challenges, Scott, Florida’s current governor, has ordered state law-enforcement agencies to investigate potential corruption.

“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties,” Scott said during a Thursday night press conference. “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the people of Florida.”

Trump expressed support for Scott’s actions in a Friday morning tweet and reiterated his dissatisfaction with Broward County officials in remarks to reporters late in the day.

While leaving the White House to travel to Paris for a commemoration of World War I, Trump said Snipes had a “a horrible history,” and questioned the changing vote count. “All of a sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere. Rick Scott . . . won by a comfortable margin, but every couple of hours it goes down a little bit. . . . Bad things have gone on in Broward County, really bad things.”

Snipes was found guilty in 2016 of prematurely destroying ballots relevant to an ongoing lawsuit against her office. Snipes again ran afoul of election law in February, when a Judge found that she opened mail-in-ballots prematurely. There are numerous additional examples of Snipes’ incompetence that fell short of illegality.

Both the Florida Senate race and the gubernatorial race remain in limbo as the margin of victory in each has fallen below the 0.5 percentage-point threshold for triggering an automatic recount under state law. Nelson’s campaign has retained veteran Democratic attorney Marc Elias to litigate the recount, and speaking to reporters Thursday, Elias predicted the incumbent would prevail.

“I’m confident that Senator Nelson and the Democrats are going to do well in terms of vote share in the days to come,” Elias said on a conference call. “Because when, at the end of the day, all eligible have their votes counted and counted accurately, the fundamental truth that we’re going to learn is that more voters voted for Senator Nelson than Governor Scott.”

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