Florida is in chaos as thousands of ballots remain uncounted, and the outcome of the state's key elections could remain unclear for weeks

President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

  • Since Tuesday, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have all become mired in controversy over uncounted votes.
  • But nowhere is the chaos more dramatic than in Florida, where two major South Florida counties - Broward and Palm Beach - have yet to count thousands of votes.
  • Several races, including the Senate and gubernatorial contests, are approaching the 0.5 percentage-point margin that would trigger an automatic recount.

Since Tuesday, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have all become mired in controversy over uncounted votes.

But nowhere is the chaos more dramatic than in Florida, where two major Democratic-leaning South Florida counties - Broward and Palm Beach - are still tallying thousands of votes as the margin between the Senate and gubernatorial candidates approaches the recount threshold.
  • Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has not conceded to his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, despite Scott declaring victory on Tuesday night.
  • In the governor's race, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, conceded on Tuesday night. But since then, Republican Ron DeSantis' lead has fallen to just 0.44 percentage points, which is just below the automatic recount threshold. On Thursday, Gillum's campaign indicated that they are "ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount."
Republicans are charging that Broward and Palm Beach County elections officials have a record of "incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations." They are pointing to a recent court ruling that Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor, oversaw the illegal destruction of votes in a 2016 congressional contest. The office is under state monitoring.

Snipes has, as of yet, not released the total number of ballots yet to be counted. She said Thursday that mail-in and provisional ballots are being counted as quickly as possible but that her office has been slowed by the volume of ballots.

The battle over the future of Florida - and the Senate - could continue for weeks as recounts, and lawsuits, commence:

  • As of Friday morning, Scott leads Nelson by about 15,000 votes and DeSantis leads Gillum by about 36,000 votes.
  • All of Florida's 67 counties have until noon on Saturday to send their unofficial vote counts to Florida's Division of Elections.
  • Ballots collected in Broward, as of Thursday evening, show that almost 25,000 people voted in the governor's race, but not in the Senate race. Democrats blame the fact that Senate box appeared in a corner of the ballot beneath the instructions and say many voters missed it.
  • Florida's secretary of state - a Scott appointee - is tasked with ordering the state-mandated recounts.
  • Six races could have recounts: US Senate, governor, state agriculture commissioner, one state Senate race, and two state House races.
  • Machine recounts must be completed by 3 p.m. on November 15. The state will allow three more days for manual recounts if the margin is less than 0.25 percentage points.

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum with his wife, RJ, won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum with his wife, RJ, won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday.

GOP spreads unproven accusations of fraud

There is no proof that the votes being counted in Broward county are illegitimate, but that has not prevented Scott and his allies, including President Donald Trump, from making those claims. On Thursday, Scott and Senate Republicans filed a lawsuit demanding the recount be halted. Both Scott and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have implied that Broward county election officials are committing fraud by miscounting or creating votes.

"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be a rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties," Scott said Thursday. "Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want."

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Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, alleged in a series of tweets that the county is "creating" votes and said one has to be "naive, even simple minded not to recognize" that Democrats regularly engage in voter fraud.

No widespread voter fraud has been uncovered in American elections in recent years, despite several investigations. Trump's own commission to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 elections found no such wrongdoing and, after it was disbanded last January, one of its members slammed the White House for making false claims to support Trump's unsubstantiated claims.

"Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!" Trump tweeted.

On Friday morning, Trump claimed that Snipes, the Broward elections supervisor, had a "horrible history" and added that "what's going on in Florida is a disgrace."
"You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia - but the Election was on Tuesday? Let's blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!" Trump tweeted later in the morning.

Fox News host and informal Trump adviser Sean Hannity even said "somebody needs to go to jail" as a result of the delayed vote counts in Broward.

"It is obviously corrupt, obviously laws were broken, obviously there are shenanigans here," Hannity said in an interview with Scott on his Thursday evening program. "You won this race hands down."

Several lawmakers also weighed in, with Democrats including Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar urging a recount.

On Thursday, Rubio tweeted out a video purporting to show Broward election officials transporting ballots in private cars, fanning the flames of the conspiracies.