Judge says he's unlikely to toss signature match

Posted at 5:30 PM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 12:59:10-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - The Latest on Florida's election recount (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

A federal judge says he is unlikely to let Florida election officials automatically count thousands of mail-in ballots that have signatures that do not match those on file.

Democrats are asking U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to throw out Florida's existing signature match law. They say untrained experts should not be allowed to decide if someone's signature on a mail-in ballot doesn't match the signature included on a registration form that could be years old.

Walker has not yet ruled but said he may give voters extra time to fix their ballots.

The lawsuit is one of a half-dozen related to Florida's ongoing recount that involves three statewide races including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's race against Gov. Rick Scott.

Election officials testified that nearly 4,000 mail-in and provisional ballots have been rejected so far because of mismatched signatures.


3:45 p.m.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign is suing a north Florida elections official in an effort to get copies of ballots that were emailed in possible violation of state law.

Nelson's campaign filed the lawsuit against Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen on Wednesday. The lawsuit asks a judge to order Andersen to turn over records to the campaign.

Andersen has acknowledged to media outlets that he accepted 147 ballots by email even though that's barred by state law. Andersen said the voters were displaced by Hurricane Michael, telling a Panhandle television station that anyone who objects "ought to be ashamed."

The lawsuit seeks to get copies of the ballots that were emailed or faxed as well as any instructions telling voters they could email their ballots.

1:25 p.m.

Florida election officials have asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Florida Democrats put out false information that could have resulted in voters having their ballots disqualified.

Last week, a top attorney in the Department of State wrote a letter to three Florida federal prosecutors that asked them to review "irregularities" related to mail-in ballots. The department included information that showed that voters were given the wrong deadline to fix any problems with those ballots.

Current law requires the signatures on mail-in ballots and a voter's registration form to match. If the signatures do not match, a voter has until the day before Election Day to fix the problem.

But four supervisors turned over information that showed the official forms were changed by Democratic Party operatives. The new deadline said voters had until two days after the election to fix any problems.


12:45 p.m.

It's unclear whether one of Florida's largest counties will make a looming recount deadline after their machines malfunctioned.

Tallying machines in Palm Beach County overheated and caused mismatched results with the recount of 174,000 early voting ballots. The machine recount is supposed to be finished by Thursday, though a Leon County judge has ordered that the recount be extended

Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said that the machines are "old" and were not designed to work around the clock. Bucher compared it to trying to drive an old car from Florida to Los Angeles.

The county was already behind because it can't recount multiple races simultaneously. The staff worked overnight to recount early votes again.

Florida is doing a recount in three state races, including a tight battle for U.S. Senate.


11:10 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will step down from the state panel responsible for certifying the results in the state's highly contested elections.

Daniel Nordby, a lawyer for the Republican governor, told a federal judge Wednesday that Scott will recuse himself from the state's canvassing commission. The commission is a three-member panel that officially signs off on election results in state and federal races.

Scott is locked in a tight Senate race against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that is the subject of an ongoing recount.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and another group have filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Scott from any official control over the election. Scott appoints the state's chief election official responsible for ordering recounts. Ballots, however, are counted by local election officials.


10:55 a.m.

Rick Scott is Florida's Republican governor, not a senator-elect.

Yet there he was at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's left shoulder Wednesday when the Kentucky Republican welcomed GOP senators who will take their seats in January when the new Congress is sworn in.

Scott holds the narrowest of leads over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and a recount is ongoing.

During a brief photo op in McConnell's Capitol office, Scott did not reply to a question about whether he contends there was fraud in the election.

President Donald Trump and Scott have accused elections supervisors in two Florida Democratic counties of fraud without offering evidence. State law enforcement and elections officials have said no fraud complaints have been filed.


7:15 a.m.

The Palm Beach County elections supervisor says aging equipment has overheated, causing mismatched results in the recount of ballots in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

Susan Bucher said Tuesday night that the 11-year-old machines began having problems on Monday as early voting ballots were being counted. When the numbers were crunched on Tuesday, they didn't match.

WPTV says a mechanic was flown in to fix the issues, but Bucher says "we don't have a lot of assurances."

She says the machines "started overheating so as a result the tally types are not reconciling properly." That means about 174,000 early voting ballots in the state's third most populous county will have to be recounted.

Workers are working around the clock to count the vote, but Bucher has already said they will not meet the state's Thursday deadline to report the recounted votes. Nearly 600,000 ballots were cast in the county.


12:23 a.m.

Florida's ongoing recount battle will head back to a courtroom on Wednesday as lawyers for Democrats ask a federal judge to set aside the state law that mandates that a vote be thrown out if signatures on mail ballot envelopes don't match the signature on file with election authorities.

This is the latest skirmish in Florida's legally mandated vote recount that has drawn national attention, including that of President Donald Trump.

Trump on Tuesday called on Democrat Bill Nelson to admit that he lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the state's high-profile U.S. Senate race and again implying without evidence that officials in two pivotal South Florida counties are trying to steal the election.

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