By Edmund DeMarche, Benjamin Brown
Published November 15, 2018
A federal judge ruled early Thursday that thousands of voters who had their ballots rejected due to discrepancies with their signatures will have until Saturday to resolve the issue and possibly get a chance to have their votes counted, according to a report.
The Washington Post linked to the court's ruling and reported that the decision affects more than 4,000 ballots that were set aside across 45 counties in the state, according to the judge’s opinion. It is unclear how many other ballots were affected in other counties.
Uzoma Nkwonta, a lawyer for Sen. Bill Nelson, argued that the state should delay deadlines.
“There’s zero reason why this election and the recount and the certification of votes needs to occur on Nov. 20,” Nkwonta argued, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
Democrats asked U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to throw out the state’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.
In his ruling, Walker said the “risk of unconstitutionally depriving eligible voters of their right to vote and have that vote counted” outweighs the defense’s argument that “additional procedures – to ensure legal votes are counted – will unduly burden the election” as well as “erode public confidence in the electoral process.”
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. Nelson, a Democrat, trails Scott, a Republican, by about 12,500 votes, down from Scott’s 56,000-vote lead on election night, Fox Orlando reported.
The paper reported that the ruling gives Nelson a chance to chip away at Scott's lead, but would be unlikely to change the race's outcome.
Scott's campaign is expected to appeal, the report said.
Florida officially declared a recount Saturday and since then, the state’s 67 county election offices have been racing against time running their ballots through the tallying machine. Some counties only have a few thousand votes but the likes of Miami-Dade has more than 800,000 and Broward clocks in around 700,000.
Election workers have until 3 p.m. on Thursday to finish their machine recount. It is unclear whether all the counties will meet the deadline as tallying machines overheated earlier this week in Palm Beach County.
The overheating forced staffers to go back and recount 174,000 early voting ballots because of mismatched results.
Broward County reportedly concluded its machine recount early Thursday morning, NBC 6 reported.
Once the machine recount is completed, state law requires a hand review of races that are within 0.25 percentage points. Scott is currently leading Nelson by .14 percentage points, essentially guaranteeing another recount that will last through the weekend.
Fox News’ confirmed Wednesday that Florida election officials asked federal prosecutors to look into allegations state Democrats sent faulty forms to voters in four counties that could have resulted in mail-in ballots being disqualified, the latest in a series of issues that have emerged the contentious race.
A top attorney in the Department of State wrote a letter to three Florida federal prosecutors asking them to investigate irregularities related to forms in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Citrus and Broward counties.
The claims surround date changes on official forms used to fix mail-in ballots, known as cure affidavits. The forms were due by 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 – a day before the election – but records show forms sent out said the ballots could be returned three days later on Nov. 8.
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.