Thursday 19 September 2019

Trump claims his rivals trying to 'steal' Florida election with recount

New hope: Florida governor race candidate Andrew Gillum. Photo: Getty
New hope: Florida governor race candidate Andrew Gillum. Photo: Getty

Kim Ripoll miami

US President Donald Trump continued to weigh in on Florida's mandatory recount in races for governor and US Senate, claiming without evidence that ballots "are missing or forged".

Mr Trump said on Twitter that the elections should be called in favour of the Republican candidates who were leading on election night - because "an honest vote count is no longer possible - ballots massively infected".

Florida's Senate and governor's races have gone to a recount that will decide two key offices in the largest US swing state because the Republicans' advantage in both races has fallen below the 0.5pc threshold required to trigger mandatory machine recounts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.

The move quickly drew an unfounded rebuke from Mr Trump, who alleged opponents were trying to "steal" the elections.

Rick Scott, the state's governor now vying to be a US senator, echoed that allegation on Fox News and said that there had been "no transparency" in a recount that has seen 93,000 ballots materialise after election day that weren't counted previously.

In the Senate race, the unofficial count had Republican Scott leading incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by about 12,600 votes among roughly 8.2 million votes cast in the November 6 election. The race for governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was separated by about 33,700 votes, with the Republican also leading there.

Election workers started a mad dash to recount by machine the millions of votes, in a task that some thought would be impossible to finish by the mandated deadline of 3pm on November 15.

Mr Scott echoed Mr Trump on the 'Fox & Friends' morning programme. "We need to go forward and start thinking about our agendas. Bill Nelson is clearly a sore loser. He can't stand the fact that he's not going to be elected for the first time in decades and he's just here to steal this election," Mr Scott said.

Mr Nelson's campaign sent a video statement on Friday in which the senator said: "Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted and he's impeding the democratic process."

The lawyer that Mr Scott referenced was not authorised to object, and non-citizens don't vote, Mr Nelson's attorney Marc Elias said.

The Florida governor on Sunday sued to have voting machines, tallying devices and ballots seized in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

State elections officials said they had observers in Broward County and they hadn't found evidence of criminal wrongdoing. What's more, Mr Detzner, whose office ultimately had to order the recount, is a Scott appointee.

Mr Scott's "own Republican officials in Florida said there is no fraud," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday. The recounts will decide the fate of a crucial Senate seat and a governorship in a state that will also be important in the 2020 presidential contest.

Mr Scott declared victory on election night, but slow vote-counting in Democrat-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties narrowed the race to within the margin that dictates a recount. Mr DeSantis also declared victory - and his opponent conceded - when the outcome appeared set on election night.

Mr Trump, Mr Scott and other Republicans have attempted to sow doubt about the process and raise suspicions about electoral officials, especially Broward County's election supervisor Brenda Snipes, who oversaw the vote in the state's second-most populous county, which includes Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.

Republicans said Ms Snipes failed to provide necessary transparency as votes dribbled in and Democrats closed the margin. Pressed on ABC's 'This Week' on Sunday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway cited "boxes of votes just appearing out of nowhere" and past criticism of Ms Snipes.

Irish Independent

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