Governor Rick Scott warns 'rampant fraud' possible in Broward, Palm Beach counties

- Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign is suing the Broward County elections supervisor to turn over records regarding how ballots are being counted.

During a news conference Thursday night, Scott accused election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties of trying to thwart the will of the voters, as recounts seem likely for several statewide races.

Scott said he is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Scott told reporters: At the end of election night, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office said 634,000 votes had been cast. 

By 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the office reported 712,040 ballots counted with an unknown number of ballots remaining.

Under Florida law, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate's margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.

Scott's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit late Thursday demanding that Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes be ordered to turn over several records detailing the counting and collection of ballots cast in Tuesday's election. They are seeking an emergency hearing as the votes must be certified by noon Saturday.

The lawsuit was filed about the same time Scott ordered state law enforcement officials to investigate the Broward and Palm Beach voting operation.

Governor Scott said the officials in those counties were trying to "steal the election and thwart the efforts of voters in Florida."

"The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency and the supervisors are failing to give it to us," Scott said.

The lawsuit against Snipes and her office alleges they are "unwilling to disclose records revealing how many electors voted, how many ballots have been canvassed, and how many ballots remain to be canvassed."

"The lack of transparency raises substantial concerns about the validity of the election process. An emergency hearing is necessary as the Canvassing Board is obligated to submit the unofficial elections results to the Division of Elections by noon November 10, 2018. A recount in at least two, possibly three, of the statewide races appears likely." 

Read the lawsuit against Broward County here.

Scott said Palm Beach County officials were refusing to provide information about the ballot count to the public. He said they were also illegally denying party officials access to the ballot counting area, forcing them to stand behind a glass wall with limited visibility and no ability to hear what counters are saying. 

The allegations against Palm Beach County were outlined in the lawsuit filed by Scott's office.

Read the lawsuit against Palm Beach County here.

"This is a clear violation of Florida law," Scott said.

Scott has a narrow lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and the race may be headed to a recount. His lead narrowed as final ballots in heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties were counted Wednesday and Thursday.

No one answered at Snipes' office late Thursday.

A spokesperson for Senator Bill Nelson said in a statement, “The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately. Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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