This is what democracy looks like.
Bikers for Trump leader Chris Cox bustled through the throng of protesters at the Broward County elections office at the heart of the Florida recount fandango, drawing attention to colored zip-tie tags found on the ground near the building’s loading dock.
Mr. Cox and a crowd of Republican activists are convinced that the 15 red and orange tags were cut off ballot boxes before the votes reached the election office, which could be a violation of state law, evidence of vote tampering or nothing at all.
“This election is a fraud,” Mr. Cox said in a video of the scene posted on Facebook. “It’s pretty disgusting here. I’m glad that you’re not here because this isn’t anything you want to see.”
In Palm Beach, state Democratic Party officials on Wednesday called another in a series of conferences to accuse Republicans of sabotaging the vote count with phony fraud allegations.
“They are afraid that when all votes are counted they won’t have the votes to win,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo.
The Florida recount, with Republican candidates leading close senatorial and gubernatorial races, has spawned an electoral free-for-all of political activists, partisan lawyers and party honchos angling for an advantage.
President Trump has injected himself into the recount rumble for Senate between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
“When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Scott clings to a lead that withered from roughly 60,000 on election night to just more than 12,500 by Saturday afternoon as vote counting continued in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, repeatedly joined the partisan scrum. He slammed “incompetent lawbreaking election officials” and accused Democrats’ attorneys of trying to game the system.
“You cannot change the rules of the game after the game in order to win because that would be stealing an election, and that would be unacceptable,” Mr. Rubio said.
An attorney for Mr. Cox, a Biker for Trump, sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi demanding an investigation into possible tags from ballot boxes or ballot bags, each of which can hold up to 2,500 ballots.
“Based on having 15 tags, that could mean that approximately 37,500 ballots could have been tampered with,” lawyer Derek A. Schwartz wrote.
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Scott showed up for new member orientation on the assumption that his lead will stick.
Mr. Scott’s team has started to refer to him as “Senator-elect Scott” in mailings. Although he insisted it wasn’t necessary, Mr. Scott bowed to demands from Mr. Nelson and some leftist groups that filed lawsuits seeking his recusal from certifying the election.
“I recused myself from certifying results on the Elections Canvassing Commission in 2014, and I will do so again this year,” he tweeted. “This is nothing new. Bill Nelson is confused and doesn’t even know how Florida works — I have no role in supervising/overseeing the ongoing recount process.”
Mr. Nelson, who has been largely off the stage since Election Day save for an appearance Tuesday in Washington with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, released a taped statement Wednesday.
Some of his attorneys then entered federal court in Tallahassee on one of the myriad lawsuits that the postelection confusion has birthed, this one challenging the ability of what Mr. Nelson calls “untrained election officials” from tossing ballots on which the signatures of voters didn’t appear to match those on file.
“Given the closeness of this election, and the fact that the courts have declared signature-matching laws unconstitutional in several states, we expect this issue to be of considerable importance here in Florida,” Mr. Nelson said. “It remains the most important goal of my campaign to make sure that every lawful vote be counted correctly in this Senate race, and that Floridians’ right to participate in this process is protected.”
To hear the Scott team tell it, the flurry of lawsuits and the inability or unwillingness of Democratic elections supervisors in Palm Beach and Broward counties to abide by state laws governing recounts are part of an effort to protect Mr. Nelson’s flagging chance of overcoming Mr. Scott’s lead.
At least nine lawsuits have been filed in the Senate recount, five from Mr. Scott’s legal team and four from Mr. Nelson’s.
Mr. Nelson’s effort is spearheaded by veteran Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who flew in from Washington. A partner at the Democrat-connected firm of Perkins Coie, Mr. Elias is a heavy hitter who represented Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential run and fought previous election battles, including the 2008 Minnesota recount that overturned Al Franken’s Election Day loss to put him in the Senate.
Complainants in legal action targeting Mr. Scott include the liberal groups VoteVets, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
On the conservative side, Larry Klayman, founder of the activist group Judicial Watch, is suing Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes on charges of fraud, misconduct and corruption and for denying the group access to inspect ballots.
The cases have landed in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, who compared the experience to a well-known “Star Trek” episode.
“I feel a little bit like Captain Kirk in the episode with the Tribbles where they start to multiply,” he said from the bench Wednesday.
As the recount closed in on a Thursday deadline, Mr. Scott led the Senate race by more than 12,500 votes. In the governor’s race, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis topped Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by about 33,000 votes.
The Democrats’ best bet to close the gap and claim victory was finding votes that eluded the Nov. 6 tally, such as undercounted ballots.
Democratic attorneys have pointed to what they consider an implausible undercount in Broward County, where roughly 25,000 more votes were cast in the governor’s race than in the Senate contest. That could indicate votes missed by counting machines or from voters improperly marking their ballots, they said.
Mr. Elias has previously argued that leads as large as Mr. Scott’s are insurmountable, and the Scott campaign said Wednesday that he and other Democratic attorneys are arguing against the inclusion of votes in Arizona recounts that they say should count in Florida.
Meanwhile, Florida officials have reached out to the Department of Justice about some odd communications in four counties: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Broward and Citrus.
There, it appears Florida Democrats gave bad information to voters by mail. The mailings said the deadline for filing affidavits to fix any discrepancies was “BEFORE 5 p.m. Thursday 11/8.”
In fact, the deadline was 5 p.m. Nov. 5 — the eve of Election Day.
“Please pass the word to the FDP that they can’t arbitrarily add their own deadline to your form for VBM cures!” Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux emailed the secretary of state’s office Nov. 8 when he noticed the faulty instructions. “This is crazy!!”