TALLAHASSEE — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled in two more election-related lawsuits during the night, hours before the start of hand recounts in two statewide races that are too close to call.
Walker denied a Democratic challenge to Florida's voter intent rules governing undervotes and overvotes. He also rejected a request by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause to prevent Gov. Rick Scott from exercising any authority over the recount process.
Walker, recalling Scott's nighttime press conference on the steps of the Governor's Mansion on Nov. 8 where he attacked "unethical liberals" and described "rampant fraud" in Broward and Palm Beach counties, described the governor as "careening perilously close to a due process violation."
But he said Scott has not "crossed the line" of exceeding his lawful authority as Florida's chief executive, and he noted that Scott, as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, has recused himself from certifying Florida's election results.
"This court recognizes the demarcation between typical campaign-trail puffery and the words and actions of a public official acting in an official capacity," Walker wrote. "Scott has toed the line between imprudent campaign-trail rhetoric and problematic state action, but he has not crossed the line."
An excerpt from Walker's decision:
Democrats sought to invalidate rules dating to 2002 that require county canvassing boards to apply a consistency standard and consider the use of specific "magic words" in deciding whether to count votes as valid during recounts. Enjoining the use of the voter intent standard now would create hardships, the judge decided.
"They are clear, uniform rules that elections officials have been trained to apply," Walker wrote.