Reporter's Notebook: Florida recount nightmare grows as insults, protests and accusations pile on

With razor-thin margins in multiple Florida races being recounted, dueling protests, lawsuits, and unfounded allegations captured the confusion, frustration and all-out anger brewing in Broward County on Monday.

Florida has been back middle of a familiar nightmare after a recount was ordered in three races. Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less will trigger a recount. Three in the Sunshine State fit the bill – with two being in the national spotlight.

The Senate race is perhaps the most contentious. Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott declared victory Tuesday night, but incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson 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.

In the governor’s race, unofficial results show that Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis led Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points.

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Officials here spent much of the day rushing to catch up to Miami-Dade County following a Sunday glitch – a machine wasn’t registering all the ballots when it was tested - that delayed the recount process by about three hours.

By mid-afternoon Monday, Miami-Dade was about halfway through their recount process while Broward was just getting started. Much of the blame fell on the shoulders of Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who has a history of election missteps that even her supporters labeled amateurish at best.

Protesters carried signs that read, “Corrupt Snipes!!! Lock Her Up!,” “Busted Brenda” and “I trust (Michael) Avenatti more than Brenda!” while shouting at election officials, counter-protesters and the news media.

“Brenda needs to be fired! She needs to go! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” screamed Lois Healy, a New Jersey retiree living in southern Florida. “She can’t hide from us! I hate that woman.”

Another yelled into a bullhorn, “Supervisor of corruption! Show your face!”

Several others Fox News spoke to demanded Snipes, a Talladega, Alabama, native who has lived in Florida since 1964, be fired. A few went a step further and said she should be indicted.

“She needs to go,” one man wearing a Trump T-shirt said. The president has himself said Snipes “has had a horrible history.” President Trump also weighed in on the recount Monday, urging the state to go with election night results and called the ballots in question “massively infected” but did not provide any details.

The Snipes debate seemed to saturate much of the conversation in Broward, spilling out onto the streets near downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I don’t care about her past,” Robyn White told Fox News. “Every vote needs to be counted. Every single one. Those people (protesting) – God bless them, but no.”

Over at the courthouse, lawyers on behalf of candidates duked it as the demands and lawsuits piled up. Nelson called on Scott to recuse himself from having anything to do with the recount. The incumbent senator did score a win after Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said he saw no wrongdoing in the vote-counting and denied Scott’s request to seize voting machines. Though Tuter asked both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric” to reassure citizens that the integrity of the recount is being protected, that didn’t seem to sway many people.

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There were other troubling signs about the recount Monday.

The Miami Herald reported that an election official in Bay County said he allowed some displaced voters to cast ballots by email or fax though there are no rules that allow for it in state law.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen told the newspaper he accepted 11 ballots by email and 147 by fax – something that’s only allowed for voters overseas. It is unclear what the fallout – if any - will be from the admission.

Andersen said that the email and faxed ballots were verified by signature and that voters were required to sign an oath before submitting the documents.

“If I can validate it with a signature, the ballot is there, how is that different than a ballot that comes in through the post office?”

And as the state scrambles to meet its Thursday recount deadline, it’s also dealing with unfounded allegations that a box of Broward County ballots was found at the Fort Lauderdale airport Sunday night.