Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday urged Florida election officials to ignore a Sunday deadline for the ongoing vote recount, saying the deadline was meant for presidential elections, not Senate races.
“If it takes a little while to count them, count them we must. That’s what democracy demands,” Mr. Schumer said in a brief statement to reporters in Washington.
He had just met with Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who trails by some 12,500 votes. That’s close enough that the race is in the midst of a state-mandated machine recount, where Democrats hope to discover enough uncounted or miscounted votes to swing the race.
Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican who leading Mr. Nelson, has said he suspects shenanigans in the counting, particularly after the elections supervisor in Broward County took days to do the initial count, ignored statutory deadlines for updating information on the status of votes, and was accused of polluting the ballots by mixing bad ones in with good ones.
Florida is no stranger to election drama, having been the site of the 2000 recount on which the presidential election hung. After that fiasco, the state implemented a rule setting a firm deadline for any recount, and that’s looming this weekend.
But Mr. Schumer said that deadline shouldn’t apply.
“In the Senate race there is no Electoral College. That means supervisors of the elections should have all the time they need to count every Floridian’s ballot and make sure the candidate with the most votes is actually seated in January, even if the vote count has to go beyond Sunday,” he said.
Last week, Mr. Nelson’s legal team lost a federal lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Florida asking the state to extend the weekend deadline by which counties must submit their initial tallies.
Brenda Snipes, the Democratic supervisor of elections in Broward County, continued the count past the Saturday noon deadline despite objections from Republican attorneys on the scene, video shows.
Meanwhile a federal judge Monday granted Palm Beach County a five-day extension for a machine recount, although the Democratic supervisor of elections there, Susan Bucher, said it may not be necessary.
Broward officials also say they are ahead of schedule on their machine recount.
Standing with Mr. Schumer at the Capitol, Mr. Nelson again called on Mr. Scott to recuse himself from the entire process, though Mr. Scott’s campaign has pointed out that a governor has no role in vote-recounts, so there’s nothing from which to recuse himself.
And the Scott campaign remained confident the vote count will stand.
“When the machine recount is complete on Thursday, Nelson will have to decide if he wants to preserve his legacy and go out with dignity or if he wants to be forever remembered as the guy that liberal interest groups used in an effort to win the presidential election two years early,” said Scott for Florida spokesman Chris Hartline.
In addition to the continuous post-election count in Broward and Palm Beach counties, news broke this week that in one of the Panhandle counties ravaged by Hurricane Michael last month, the supervisor of elections allowed some voters to submit ballots by email, for which there is no provision in state law.
All told, 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 faxed in. Those avenues are permitted for military and overseas voters, said Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen.
Those ballots were verified by signature and voters were required to sign an oath, Mr. Andersen said.
Bay County is generally regarded as a conservative stronghold while Broward and Palm Beach traditionally lean liberal.
Republican officials sidestepped a question about those ballots in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, and GOP Rep. Francis Rooney said he thought President Trump was unfamiliar with the process for overseas military voters when he tweeted that given all that has transpired the results on election night should stand.
“Our focus throughout this recount, everything we’ve done, is intended to enforce adherence to existing laws,” said Tim Cerio, an attorney with the Scott campaign.