Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign came out swinging on Friday, pushing back on Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that they are trying to “steal” the close Senate race as the Democratic vote share keeps creeping upward.
Scott on Thursday announced he was suing elections supervisors in two predominantly Democratic counties, Palm Beach and Broward, where ballots are still being counted and eating into his lead. The governor also said he was asking Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the matter.
“The tone, the tenor and [Scott’s] behavior last night is not suggestive of a campaign that believes it’s winning,” Marc Elias, the Nelson campaign’s lead recount lawyer, said on a call with reporters.
“This is not a third-world dictatorship,” Elias said, referring to Scott’s “veiled threat or suggestion that he was somehow going to involve law enforcement.”
“We don’t let people seize ballots when they think they’re losing,” he continued.
In his remarks Thursday, Scott took aim at Elias specifically, noting that the high-profile Perkins Coie attorney has been involved in numerous other Democratic recount efforts.
Elias jokingly thanked the governor for the “free promotional video,” but said that his prior successes were based simply on an accurate tally of the ballots cast.
Pointing to the recounts Scott mentioned in Virginia, North Carolina, and Minnesota, Elias said, “In each of those cases, the margins narrowed. In every one of those instances, the Democratic vote share increased.”
“And as much credit as he or other want to give me for that, there’s nothing I can do about that. There’s nothing Rick Scott can do about it. There’s nothing any of you can do about it. Ultimately the ballots are what they are, the votes are what they are,” he continued. “And if more voters cast ballots for Senator Nelson, he’s going to return to the U.S. Senate.”
The margin between the two candidates now stands at just over 15,000 votes out of 8.1 million cast. That is well within the .5 percent margin required to trigger an automatic machine recount under state law, and, if it holds, within the .25 percent margin required for a subsequent recount by hand.
Elias told reporters that he is not moving forward “as a wide-eyed optimist,” but said his “informed judgment” from previous efforts convince him that the final margin will be something like .1 percent.
President Trump has joined Scott in casting suspicion on the shifting vote totals, tweeting, “You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia – but the Election was on Tuesday?”
Elections experts say it’s standard for counties to continue counting votes in the days after an election, as overseas ballots come in and errors are fixed during the canvassing review process.
Confirming the accuracy of those totals is “a feature, not a flaw” of the Democratic process, Elias said.
Florida’s 67 counties have a deadline of Saturday at noon to submit their final vote tallies.