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Broward judge denies Rick Scott’s bid to impound voting machines, offers compromise

Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter suggested adding three Broward Sheriff's deputies to the current lineup of BSO officers and private security guards overseeing the recount.

A Broward judge on Monday turned down Gov. Rick Scott's request to "impound and secure" all voting machines in Broward's elections headquarters when they're not being used to recount ballots.

But Circuit Judge Jack Tuter offered a compromise: Add three Broward Sheriff's deputies to the current lineup of BSO officers and private security guards overseeing the recount under way at the county's election's center in Lauderhill.

Tuter stopped short of granting the Scott campaign's request for an injunction to impound the machines, but agreed with his lawyers that "there needs to be an additional layer of confidence" in the vote-recount system in Broward. The votes in the U.S. Senate race between Scott and incumbent Bill Nelson are part of the recount.

Tuter asked the lawyers representing Scott's campaign and attorneys for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to come back by 1 p.m. Monday with a plan that would assign the three additional BSO deputies to protecting the voting machines and ballots during the recount of races for U.S. Senate, Florida's governor and state agriculture commissioner.

Tuter also warned the lawyers for all the candidates engaged in recounts to tone down their political attacks because the nation's eyes are zeroed in on Broward once again — an obvious reference to Florida's fiercely contested presidential recount in 2000.

"I am urging [the lawyers] to tamp down the rhetoric," Tuter told more than 15 lawyers gathered in his courtroom for the Scott campaign's emergency motion on a national holiday, Veterans' Day, when the court would normally be closed. "We have to be careful about what we say."

Moments before the judge proposed his compromise, Scott's lawyer, Jason Zimmerman, accused Broward's supervisor of elections of violating Florida laws, saying the integrity of the midterm election was at stake.

"We have a trust issue with this county," Zimmerman said. "We have a trust issue with this process. We must do something now."

Snipes' attorney, Eugene Pettis, and Democratic lawyers said during the hearing that if the judge granted the Scott campaign's motion for the injunction, it would "send the wrong message" to the public.

— Jay Weaver