Tallahassee, FL – The Florida attorney general chastised the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on Sunday for refusing to investigate election problems in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“I am deeply troubled by your announcement that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote in a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, WTSP reported.
While it was unclear what exactly was going on in the two heavily Democratic counties, evidence thus far has pointed to a combination of possible voting machine errors and badly crafted ballots, in addition to numerous missed reporting deadlines, the Naples Daily News reported.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, who beat incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by a slim margin in the election, filed lawsuits against Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach election supervisor Susan Bucher after more than 70,000 ballots appeared suddenly more than 24 hours after the election ended, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Scott’s lawsuits alleged that Democrats Snipes and Bucher were not following Florida election laws, and had failed to release voting tabulations on the state-mandated schedule.
The governor sued Bucher for “refusing to allow official party and campaign representatives into the ballot counting area, and having staff members determine a voter's intent without review by the county canvassing board,” CBS News reported.
West Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Krista Marx on Friday granted an injunction that ordered Bucher to submit "over-voted" and "under-voted" absentee ballots to the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board for public review prior to the ballots being counted.
Scott’s lawsuit against Snipes accused the Broward elections supervisor of hiding information about how many ballots were yet to be counted, CBS News reported.
Florida law requires local canvassing boards to report all early voting and all tabulated vote-by-mail results to the Department of State within 30 minutes after the polls close on Election Day, according to the Naples Daily News. After that, updates are required every 45 minutes until the election has been completed and certified.
"Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding votes until the election turns out the way they want," Scott said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Broward County Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips on Friday ruled in Scott’s favor and ordered Snipes to turn over the voter information immediately.
U.S. Representative Marco Rubio weighed in on Twitter, scolding Broward County for its failure to follow the law.
Incumbent Nelson’s attorneys have argued that the problems were a result of machine error. However, Broward County’s Snipes has a history of poor ballot handling.
In 2016, a court found that Snipes had violated state and federal election law by destroying ballots in the Democratic primary of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, according to the Naples Daily News.
A state judge found Snipes had mishandled ballots again in 2017 when she opened absentee ballots that had not yet been cleared by the local canvassing board.
Despite those rulings, Scott did not remove Snipes from office, and now is facing ballot-handling problems in his own U.S Senate race.
The governor and the attorney general asked the FDLE to investigate that current elections problems, but the FDLE have said that no written complaints with credible evidence have been received, WTSP reported.
Bondi pushed back hard and demanded the FDLE reconsider their decision.
“I fail to see how the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can legitimately refuse to investigate where there is reasonable suspicion that may lead to the discovery of criminal actions in the conduct of the 2018 election — actions that gravely damage Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process and democracy,” Bondi wrote in her letter to the agency’s head.
"Commissioner, protesters continue to grow around the state as well as additional complaints of election impropriety," Bondi's letter added.
"Your duty to investigate this matter is clear. I am directing you to take the necessary steps to promote public safety and to assure that our state will guarantee integrity in our elections process. Thank you for your commitment and hard work to serve our citizens each day. Florida is counting on you," the letter ended.
The attorney general also sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner formally requesting that he refer “any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to both the statewide prosecutor and state attorney.”
President Donald Trump also got involved.
Scott’s campaign filed another emergency motion on Sunday night that requested FDLE and the sheriff's offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties “impound and secure all machines, devices, and ballots when not in use until the recount is completed,” citing Snipes historical disregard for Florida election law.