Political News

Broward and Palm Beach counties are at the center of a brewing Florida recount. Again.

Posted November 8, 2018 9:49 p.m. EST

— Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida are once again at the center of a brewing controversy over vote counting as two of the highest-profile races in the state appear to be headed toward a runoff.

In a news conference on Thursday night, Florida Gov. Rick Scott -- who is also the Republican candidate for US Senate in the state -- alleged there could be rampant fraud in both counties and accused Democrats of trying to "steal" the election.

Scott's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed two lawsuits on Thursday, one against the Broward County supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, and the other against the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, Susan Bucher. The lawsuits allege that the supervisors have not been transparent either about the collection of the vote or about the vote count, in violation of Florida law.

Snipes told CNN she was not aware of Scott's announcement of a lawsuit and was not commenting.

In his news conference, Scott accused the election supervisors of "mysteriously" finding votes and called for a full "law enforcement" investigation, promising to take any legal action necessary.

"Tonight I am asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate this immediately, and I am considering every single legal option available," Scott said.

"We've all seen the incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again," Scott said. "I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida."

The campaign for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott's opponent, said the governor's actions appeared to be "politically motivated."

"The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately," said Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin. "Rick Scott's action appears to be politically motivated and born out of desperation."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum tweeted in response to Scott that "counting votes isn't partisan — it's democracy. Count every vote."

Scott delivered his blistering statement at the governor's mansion in Florida. His role as chief executive will surely raise conflict-of-interest concerns.

He did not take questions at the news conference.

His news conference comes amid questions over discrepancies in the vote tallies in Broward County.

A CNN analysis of votes cast in Broward County suggests that ballot design could be responsible for a substantial difference in the number of votes cast between the race for governor and the race for senator in Florida, meaning thousands of voters there may have missed their chance to weigh in on the still-undecided Senate race. The placement of the Senate race on the ballot could have made it possible to overlook.

Broward and Palm Beach counties became infamous for vote-counting problems during the 2000 presidential recount.

Fueling the controversy on Thursday, a teacher said she found a box marked "provisional ballots" in a storage area of the school long after the voting had taken place there Tuesday.

Lakeisha Sorey, a resource teacher at Sunshine Elementary School who has taught in Broward County schools for 16 years, said it looked like a plastic storage bin with a hole on the top with a printed label that said "provisional ballots" taped on the box. In a telephone interview with CNN on Thursday night, she said she took a picture but did not try to open or lift the box, because she did not want any questions.

"I did not touch it," she said. "I knew that the elections were a federal thing, so I didn't want any of those issues. I didn't want there to be any interference."

Dozel Spencer, the Broward County Elections Voter Equipment Center director, told CNN that this was equipment, not ballots. He said it takes several days to pick up equipment after Election Day.

Broward is a Democratic-leaning county. Among those who did vote in the Senate race there, 69.1% backed Nelson, while 30.9% backed Scott. Gubernatorial candidate Gillum topped Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis in the county by a similar share of the vote (68% for Gillum to 31.3% for DeSantis), but he earned about 10,000 more votes from the county.

Nelson trails Scott in the Senate race by about 15,000 votes statewide, and the race is likely heading for an automatic recount because the margin is so narrow.

This story is breaking and will be updated.