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Fla. Recount Battle Goes Back to Court 11/14 06:11

   Florida's ongoing recount battle heads back to a courtroom Wednesday. 

   FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's ongoing recount battle heads back to 
a courtroom Wednesday. Lawyers for Democrats will ask a federal judge to set 
aside the state law mandating that mailed-in votes be thrown out if the 
signature on the envelope doesn't match the signature on file with election 
authorities.

   This is the latest skirmish in Florida's legally mandated vote recount, 
which is drawing national attention, including a stream of tweets from 
President Donald Trump.

   Trump on Tuesday called on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to admit that he lost 
his re-election bid to Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Trump implied, again without 
evidence, that officials in two pivotal South Florida counties are trying to 
steal the election.

   "When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida?" Trump wrote. "The characters 
running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to 'find' enough votes, 
too much spotlight on them now!"

   There have been bumps as Florida undergoes recounts for both the governor 
and Senate races. Palm Beach County said it won't finish its recount by the 
Thursday deadline. In oft-criticized Broward County, additional sheriff's 
deputies were sent to guard ballots and voting machines, a compromise aimed at 
alleviating concerns. Those counties are both Democratic strongholds.

   Still, the state elections department and the Florida Department of Law 
Enforcement, both run by Republican appointees, have said they have seen no 
evidence of voter fraud. A Broward County judge challenged anyone who has 
evidence of fraud to file a report.

   While the counting goes on, there are now four lawsuits pending in a 
Tallahassee federal court that seek to throw out ballot counting rules or 
extend deadlines for recounts.

   Marc Elias, a campaign attorney for Nelson, argued ahead of the looming 
court battle that "we should all be able to agree that the goal here is a legal 
and accurate count." Republicans have responded by contending that Democrats 
want to bend or skirt existing election laws to alter the outcome.

   "We got to keep the heat on these people to make sure they follow the law," 
said Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney to reporters on a recount update 
organized by Scott's campaign.

   Presidents have historically sought to rise above the heated partisan drama 
surrounding election irregularities. Former President Barack Obama wasn't so 
publicly involved when a recount and legal process in the 2008 election delayed 
a Democrat taking a Minnesota Senate seat until July 2009. Former President 
Bill Clinton struck a lower tone during the 2000 presidential recount, which 
also centered on Florida.

   But this Florida recount has been personal for Trump. He aggressively 
campaigned in the state, putting his finger on the scales of the Republican 
gubernatorial primary this summer by endorsing former Rep. Ron DeSantis for 
governor. After Election Day, Trump's aides pointed to the GOP's seeming 
success in the state as a validation that the president's path to re-election 
remained clear --- a narrative that has grown hazier as the outcomes have 
become less certain.

   White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said Tuesday the president 
"obviously has his opinion" on the recount.

   "It's been incredibly frustrating to watch," she said.

   U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump is attempting to bully 
Florida election officials out of doing their jobs. Schumer and Nelson, both 
Democrats, spoke with reporters Tuesday in Washington.

   "It's just plain wrong. It's un-American." Schumer said. "If he really wants 
an honest and fair election, President Trump will stop bullying, harassing and 
lying about the vote in Florida, and let the election proceed without the heavy 
hand of the president tipping the scale of justice."

   State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 
0.5 percentage points. In the Senate race, Scott's lead over Nelson was 0.14 
percentage points. In the governor's contest, unofficial results showed 
Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor 
Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points.

   Once the machine recount is complete, a hand recount will be ordered in any 
race where the difference is 0.25 percentage points or less, meaning it could 
take even longer to complete the review of the Senate race if the difference 
remains narrow.

   If the Senate race does go to a hand recount, the deadline for counties to 
finish is Sunday. But two of the pending four lawsuits ask that a federal judge 
delay the deadlines so that all counties can finish processing the crush of 
ballots.

   Elias argued that there's no need to rush, since the winner of the 
Nelson-Scott race won't be sworn into office until January.

   Meanwhile, in Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the 
county's 11-year-old tallying machines aren't fast enough to complete the 
recount by Thursday. The county is doing the Senate race first and will then do 
the governor's race. If the deadline is not met in a race, the results it 
reported Saturday will stand.


(KA)

 
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