Election monitors from the Florida Department of Elections stationed in Broward County have seen no evidence of criminal activity in the administration of Tuesday's election, a DOE staffer told the Miami Herald early Saturday.
This information, presented just hours before elections departments across the state must provide unofficial final results, contradicts allegations of fraud in the Broward elections office made by Gov. Rick Scott's attorneys Thursday and echoed by Republican protesters who descended on the headquarters of the Broward elections office Friday.
"Our staff has seen no evidence of criminal activity at this time," Sarah Revell, spokesperson for the state Department of Elections, told the Herald Saturday morning.
Two DOE staffers have been stationed in Broward County since at least Nov. 6 to oversee the administration of the elections, visit polling stations, and "ensure that all laws are followed." Florida's Secretary of State announced its plan for increased oversight in May, after a court ruled Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes broke the law when she authorized the premature destruction of ballots pertaining to a contested race following the 2016 elections.
Revell said DOE staff have remained in Broward County since election day and will continue to oversee the process until the certification of the results. The Department did not provide any specific information or reports from the state elections monitors, other than to deny they had any information to back up Scott's claims that Broward elections officials may be fabricating votes in an effort to overturn his narrowing lead in his race against Democrat Bill Nelson for a Senate seat.
Scott's campaign provided no evidence to back up its claims of fraud in Broward and Palm Beach counties and did not immediately respond to the Herald's request for comment. Scott has not been briefed on any of the DOE monitors' findings from Broward County, according to the governor's spokesperson, McKinley Lewis.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Friday it had received no reports of illegal activity activity in Broward, nor had Scott requested a formal investigation into voter fraud. Scott publicly asked for an investigation during a Thursday evening press conference outside the governor's mansion and claimed that "liberals" in Broward and Palm Beach counties were trying to steal the elections as late-developing returns shrunk the margins in races for U.S. Senate, governor and commissioner of agriculture.
He then went on FOX and reiterated his claims.
"We don't know how many more votes they're going to come up with. But it sure appears they're going to keep finding as many votes as it takes to try and win this election," he said.
The lack of official evidence hasn't stopped Scott's claims of fraud from catching on.
"Bad things have gone on in Broward County," President Donald Trump told the White House press corps. "Really bad things." Trump also suggested Snipes may have tried to "steal" his presidential election in 2016, without providing any evidence.
Protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Broward elections supervisor's office in Lauderhill Friday, carrying signs accusing Snipes of trying to steal the elections and chanting "Lock Her Up."
Although there is no known evidence of illegal activity, there are mounting concerns about incompetence within the management of Broward elections office, which was slow in providing results. Snipes announced as of Friday, Broward still had 2,100 more absentee ballots to process. Her office has until noon to submit its unofficial results to the state.
On Friday, Snipes also said that more than a dozen rejected ballots were accidentally mixed with over 200 valid ones, creating an irreconcilable situation where either good votes will be thrown out, or bad votes counted. "The ballots cannot be identified," Snipes confirmed.
On Saturday, she requested that the entire batch of ballots be counted.
"It seems unfair to be to disenfranchise 205 voters at the expense of a small number," Snipes said, adding that the number of invalid votes would be too smal to sway any of the races hanging in the balance.
There have been other embarrassing blunders that have dogged the embattled supervisor of elections in recent years.
— Alex Harris and Martin Vassolo