PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - Election officials in a Florida county battered by Hurricane Michael last month allowed about 150 displaced voters to cast ballots by email, even though it's not allowed under state law.
The Miami Herald reports that Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen defended that decision Monday.
Andersen told the newspaper that parts of the county remained shut off by law enforcement, preventing people from reaching their homes. The displaced voters were allowed to scan and email their ballots to the elections office. Andersen said all the ballots were verified by signature.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle Oct. 10 as a devastating Category 4 storm. On Oct. 18, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order extending early voting and designating more voting locations in the eight counties, including Bay. A statement that accompanied the order specifically prohibited votes being returned by email or fax.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has expressed outrage that some voters in hurricane-ravaged Bay County had been allowed to vote by email against state rules.
Gillum spoke Monday evening at an African-American church in Boynton Beach.
Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen in heavily Republican Bay County told the Miami Herald earlier on Monday that he allowed about 150 people to cast ballots by email, which is illegal under state law.
"These are the stories that we know," Gillum said. "Imagine the ones that we don't."
President Donald Trump tweeted earlier Monday that the election should be called for Gillum's Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, and Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate. Trump said an honest vote count is no longer possible.
Gillum disagreed with the tweet, saying, "Not one supervisor, not one governor, not one president - if that's what we want to call him- should be able to take away our sense of hope."
Gillum questioned the Republicans' rush to stop counting votes when the new governor won't be sworn in until January.
Two voter rights groups are suing to prevent Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, from having any role in the general election recount.
Common Cause Florida and the League of Women Voters of Florida filed the federal lawsuit Monday in Tallahassee. The groups are seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to remove Scott from any role in the recount of the 2018 Florida general election.
The groups previously sent Scott a letter urging him to recognize the conflict of interest in overseeing the recount of his own U.S. Senate race. The governor's office didn't immediately respond when asked if Scott would recuse himself from the certification but said Scott has previously certified elections when he's been on the ballot.
Scott, a Republican, holds a slight lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. The margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount under Florida law.