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Friday, April 19, 2024

Let the recount proceed smoothly. Don’t yell ‘fraud.’ Follow the law.

“Rampant fraud.” That’s how Gov. Rick Scott and his lawyers characterized the recounts currently happening in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the U.S. Senate race. That’s what the lawsuit they filed in Palm Beach County to get voting machines impounded said. But why is the governor suing Florida counties that are doing their best to give Floridians a fair recount? One thing is for certain: Florida must not finish its elections on these rough and uncertain terms. In the words of Broward Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter, who refused to bow to Scott’s lawsuit, both parties need to “ramp down the rhetoric,” though we’ve seen most of the dramatization come from Republicans.

The post-election day recounts are narrowing the margins in several of the most important statewide races. It makes the fraud allegations all the more troubling.

On Election Day, Scott led U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by about 57,000 votes. By the following day, Scott’s lead had shrunk to about 39,000. By the time of the first certified vote four days later on Saturday, Scott’s lead had decreased by about 80 percent. Scott now leads Nelson by 0.1 percent from the 0.5 percent he led by on election night.

Ron DeSantis’ lead over Andrew Gillum was also substantial on Election Day — about 78,000 votes. But just like the Senate race, by Saturday Gillum was catching up. He was behind by just 34,000 votes. DeSantis’ lead was erased by half while Florida slowly recounted.

In the race for Commissioner of Agriculture, Republican Matt Caldwell led Democrat Nicole “Nikki” Fried by 40,000 votes. By Saturday, the race flipped. Fried leads by more than 5,000 votes.

In State House District 89, Democrat Jim Bonfiglio and Republican Mike Caruso are separated by just 37 votes — that amount of people can fit in a medium-sized classroom at UF.

As the margins narrow, Scott still seems to be outraged at the results. “Bill Nelson is clearly a sore loser. He can’t stand the fact that he’s not going to be elected for, what, the first time in decades. He’s just here to steal the election,” Scott said Monday.

Scott is following President Donald Trump’s lead. With tentative victories for Republicans in jeopardy, Trump raced to discredit the recounts Monday via Twitter, saying, “large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

We must not “go with election night.” Neither Trump nor Scott offer a single piece of evidence that there is misconduct surrounding the recount. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who began the recount, is a Republican appointed by Scott himself. Contrary to what Trump and Scott would have Florida voters believe, the recount is a procedural matter mandated by law. It is not a cause for alarm. Scott and Trump should take a deep breath and settle down: Reversals of election results from recounts are even rarer than recounts themselves, according to NPR.

We cannot continue to yell “fraud” when elections aren’t going our way. It’s a threat to the peaceful transfer of power. It erodes trust in elected office. Making sure every vote is counted is not fraud. The Democratic candidates have already said they would respect the results of the recount. They haven’t conceded yet because not every voice has been heard, and it would be premature to call the race. Meanwhile, Scott keeps repeatedly asserting that he’s already won.

Voters deserve a recount. As Scott keeps falsely claiming victory, he risks doing exactly what he’s been condemning — to “steal this election from the great people of Florida.”

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