Trump claims 'honest vote' not possible in Florida as counties rush to recount

President called for end to legally required recount of governor and Senate races as state’s 67 counties face Thursday deadline

Tensions are rising in Florida as counties rush to conduct a recount in crucial races for governor and Senate, an effort already marred by mishaps and lawsuits.

Donald Trump duly weighed in on Twitter on Monday morning, calling for an end to the legally required recount.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” the president wrote, repeating Republican claims of voter fraud for which election officials in the state have said there is no evidence.

“An honest vote count is no longer possible – ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

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Florida’s 67 counties face a deadline of Thursday to complete their recounts. Half started counting at the weekend, with drama in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which both have large populations of Democratic voters and histories of election mishaps. Other counties were set to start recounting on Monday.

Unofficial results showed DeSantis, a Republican former US representative, led the Democratic Tallahassee mayor, Andrew Gillum, by 0.41% in the governor’s race. In the Senate race, outgoing Republican governor Rick Scott led the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by 0.14%.

State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5%. If the machine recount shows a difference of less than 0.25%, a hand recount is ordered.

In Broward county, the recount was delayed for hours on Sunday because of glitches with a tabulation machine. The Republican party slammed Broward’s supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, for what it claimed was “incompetence and gross mismanagement”.

Scott sued the Broward supervisor, asking for a court order mandating law enforcement officials impound all voting machines, tabulation machines and ballots when they are not being used in the recount. The lawsuit charged that Snipes has repeatedly failed to calculate the number of ballots left to be counted and to report results regularly as the law requires.

Broward officials also said they accidentally counted 22 absentee ballots that had been rejected. They had no way of fixing the problem, because the invalid ballots were mixed in with 205 legal ballots. In Palm Beach county, the supervisor of elections said her department would not be able to meet Thursday’s deadline.

On Monday morning, circuit chief judge Jack Tuter said he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote-counting in Broward and urged all sides to “ramp down the rhetoric”.

Tuter also described a need to reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount was being protected, and urged lawyers for Scott and others representing the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates and the Broward elections office to agree on minor additions to security, including the provision of three more law enforcement officers to keep an eye on the count.

The Nelson campaign, however, sued the Florida department of state, in an effort to count mail-in ballots postmarked before election day but not delivered before the polls closed on Tuesday.

A Scott campaign spokesman, Chris Hartline, called the lawsuit “nothing short of a legal white flag of surrender”.

Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic party, accused Scott of “using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our democracy”. As governor, Scott oversees all Florida elections.

Scott appeared on national TV on Sunday and accused Nelson of attempting to win the election through fraud. Florida’s department of law enforcement has, however, said it is not investigating the election, despite a request form Scott, because there are no allegations of criminal activity.

Nonetheless, Trump and Scott have continued to accuse Democrats of fraud.

“He is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Scott told Fox News Sunday. “Bill Nelson’s a sore loser. He’s been in politics way too long.”

Recounts also got underway in Miami-Dade and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the Tampa Bay area, where the counting went more smoothly. But in Broward, protesters gathered outside Snipes’ office, holding signs and a large Trump 2020 flags and repeating chants of “lock her up” .


Erin Durkin and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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