Trump seeks to end recounts in Florida’s Senate and governor elections, and alleges fraud without evidence


Anna Bongardino | Visual Editor

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One in Coraopolis around 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

By Eli Stokols | Los Angeles Times

President Donald Trump on Monday called for a halt to recounts in Florida, where Republican candidates for Senate and governor lead. He alleged without evidence that Democratic candidates’ gains were the result of fraud.

The president’s statement, in a morning tweet, contradicted Florida officials who oversee elections, who stated that they have not seen any evidence of criminal conduct. Florida’s secretary of state in charge of elections is an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for the Senate who is slightly ahead of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump said. DeSantis is the Republican gubernatorial candidate, who has a small lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Trump continued in his tweet: “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Were states to suddenly stop tallying votes on election night, as the president proposed, that would disenfranchise voters who cast absentee, mail-in, provisional or military ballots. Those from overseas and military voters have until Friday to arrive to be counted.

A statewide recount in Florida, triggered by the narrow margins in the two top-of-ballot contests, as well as for state agriculture commissioner, began on Sunday. Officials are racing against the clock to finish the machine recounts ahead of a Thursday deadline, although hand recounts could follow.

That looks more likely in the Senate race between Scott and Nelson. Scott has seen his cushion narrow to 12,562 votes out of more than 8 million ballots cast statewide _ a 0.15 percent margin _ according to the state’s unofficial count as of Saturday.

A recount is required by law if the difference in votes is half a percentage point or less.

In the governor’s race, DeSantis, the Trump-backed Republican, is ahead of Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, by 0.41 percent. If that margin holds, there won’t be a hand recount, which would occur only if the difference is smaller than 0.25 percent of the overall vote.

Trump’s allegations echo Scott, who on Sunday accused Nelson and Democrats of trying to “commit fraud to try to win this election.” Scott’s campaign has filed lawsuits against election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, two Democratic strongholds where officials have been slower to process ballots. Scott has been backed in his accusations by Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Nelson’s campaign has also sued in state court, in an effort to force the state to re-examine absentee and provisional ballots thrown out because of signatures that didn’t match voter files. A judge is set to hear that case this week.

The legal challenges in Florida are likely to further slow the process of determining a clear winner.

The protracted fight in the state comes as Republicans have seen their election night leads narrow or evaporate in other states’ close races. A number of Democrats have been declared winners of House contests in recent days. In Arizona, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, took the lead over Republican Rep. Martha McSally as late votes have been tallied.