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Republicans escalate Florida fraud claims amid recount

  • Published at 07:54 pm November 12th, 2018
US-CONTENTIOUS-FLORIDA-MIDTERM-ELECTION-RESULTS-REMAIN-IN-QUESTI
A group of protesters are shown as votes are recounted at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office on November 11, 2018 in Lauderhill, Florida AFP

Florida produced some of the nation's closest results in Tuesday's midterm voting, including apparently narrow victories by Scott over Nelson and, in a gubernatorial race, by Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum

Senior Republicans on Sunday doubled down on claims by Donald Trump that Democrats were attempting to steal the razor-thin senatorial race in Florida, accusing both the incumbent and election officials of fraud.

The intensifying feud comes 18 years after the Sunshine State found itself at the heart of a battle for the US presidency, when George W Bush prevailed over Al Gore after recounts were halted by the Supreme Court.

Republican Rick Scott, the state's governor until January when his term expires, launched into his rival Bill Nelson in his most direct terms to date Sunday, accusing him of orchestrating "fraud to try to win this election" as county officials scrambled to complete a recount by a Thursday deadline.

The theme was echoed by prominent Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, escalating a campaign led by the president who said Saturday on Twitter: "Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!"

Democrats for their part have accused Republicans of attempting to prevent votes from being counted, and pointed to the fact law enforcement has not found any evidence to substantiate rigging claims.

Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be the Speaker of the House when the new Congress begins its term in January, hit back.

"There's no election fraud," she told CBS News, adding: "My experience with the president is, any time he charges somebody with something, he's just projecting what he might have done himself."

Florida produced some of the nation's closest results in Tuesday's midterm voting, including apparently narrow victories by Scott over Nelson and, in a gubernatorial race, by Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum.

But with late-counted ballots narrowing Scott's lead to some 12,000 of the just over eight million votes cast - an edge of less than half a percent - state law mandates a recount.

The governor's race has also gone to a recount and Gillum - in a move echoing Al Gore's withdrawal of his concession in 2000 amid electoral chaos in Florida - withdrew his concession.

But analysts say DeSantis's lead of nearly 34,000 votes will be tough for Gillum to overcome.

Rejected ballots

Scott had earlier accused Democratic election officials in two large counties of "rampant fraud," but speaking on "Fox News Sunday," he accused his rival by name.

"Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election," he said. "That's all this is."

Scott added: "Somehow they came up with 93,000 votes after election night. We still don't know how they came up with that."

That number apparently included many mail-in and provisional ballots, typically among the last counted.

Speaking on CBS, Graham denied Republicans had launched a campaign to undermine the integrity of the election.

"I think what undermines election integrity is Broward County can't get their act together," he said.