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Palm Beach County gets recount extension from judge

The online docket suggests a Tallahassee judge entered an order Tuesday afternoon “suspending certain deadlines.” The judge, Karen Gievers, also allowed Sen. Bill Nelson, who is locked in a tight race for his Senate seat with Gov. Rick Scott , to intervene in the case.
Circuit Judge Karen Gievers [Steve Bousquet | Times]
Circuit Judge Karen Gievers [Steve Bousquet | Times]
Published Nov. 13, 2018|Updated Nov. 14, 2018

An effort to extend the deadline for Palm Beach County's race to re-tally votes in the state's tightly contested races before a Thursday deadline has moved to federal court, making an oral state court decision to grant more time moot.

The case was moved Tuesday after a Tallahassee judge told Democratic candidate Jim Bonfiglio during a telephone conference earlier in the day that she would grant an extension. Bonfiglio, an attorney, filed a lawsuit Monday after losing to a Republican candidate for a Palm Beach County state House seat by just 37 votes.

But before Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers could issue the order in writing, attorneys for Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a notice to move the case to federal court, meaning she no longer had jurisdiction. Detzner's attorney's motion was filed at 2:37 p.m. Gievers' order was issued at 4:49 p.m.

"She was writing the order when the removal petition was filed. Since the order was not put in writing, it was not effective," Bonfiglio said.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker has ordered attorneys for Detzler to now submit their briefs on why an extension should not be granted by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Gievers issued her order Tuesday after concluding that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher could not possibly meet state recount deadlines with just eight vote counting machines. Palm Beach County's elections board also decided last week to conduct the recount in descending order — leading with the U.S. Senate race — leaving Bonfiglio's race for last.

By setting a 3 p.m. Thursday deadline to complete the machine count, Bonfiglio said, Detzner "knowingly placed himself in a position where he as Secretary, not the voters in [House District 89] gets to decide the outcome of that election, stripping the electors of their vote and right to be heard on this race."

But about two hours before she finished writing the order, Detzner's attorney filed their federal motion arguing that because Bonfiglio argues his U.S. constitutional rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments were violated, the case should be heard in federal court.


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