Nelson lawsuit seeks to count ballots received after Election Day

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lawyers for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday filed a federal lawsuit that claims Florida is disenfranchising voters by not counting mail-in ballots it received after Election Day.

The lawsuit comes after 266 absentee ballots from the post office’s Opa-locka sorting facility arrived at Miami-Dade’s election office on Sunday. State law requires all mail ballots to be received when the polls close – which was 7 p.m. on November 6.

Nelson is locked in a fierce recount battle with Gov. Rick Scott.

Attorneys representing Scott and Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes also were in court Monday.

Scott, whose lead has narrowed over Nelson’s, filed lawsuits Sunday against local election officials, asking the judge to order police to impound voting machines and ballots when they are not in use. Specifically, his campaign filed lawsuits against Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, the election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The emergency motions came after Scott claimed “unethical liberals” were trying to steal the election after late-developing returns narrowed his margins over Nelson and triggered a statewide recount.

On Monday, Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said he saw no wrongdoing in the vote-counting and denied Scott’s request to seize voting machines. Tuter, who asked both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric,” said there is a need to reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected. The judge did, however, agree to beef up security, including adding three more law enforcement officers to police recount efforts.

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.”

Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less will trigger a recount. Three races in the Sunshine State fit the bill – with two being in the national spotlight.

In the Senate race – perhaps the most contentious – Scott, the Republican challenger, declared victory Tuesday night. But Nelson, the Democratic incumbent who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, never conceded the race. According to the Florida Division of Elections’ website, total votes show Scott with 50.07 percent of the ballots counted to Nelson’s 49.92 percent.

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