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Nelson charges Scott is undermining Florida election, demands recusal from recount

The Democratic senator said his GOP rival is "using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process."
Senator Bill Nelson campaigns in Kissimmee, Florida, on Nov. 4, 2018.
Senator Bill Nelson campaigns in Kissimmee, Florida, on Nov. 4, 2018.Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida on Monday called on his opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to recuse himself from "any role" in the recount process that will determine the winner of their race.

It's "obvious that Scott cannot oversee this process in a fair and impartial way," Nelson said in a two-minute video released by his campaign.

"And, thus, he should remove himself from any role in the recount process so the people can have confidence in the integrity of the election. Given his efforts to undermine the votes of Floridians, this is the only way that we can ensure that the people's votes are protected."

The recount is overseen by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Republican who was appointed to his position in 2012 by Scott.

Nelson accused his GOP opponent of not being "interested in making sure every lawful vote is counted" and of "using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process." The Democrat pointed to Scott's suggestion, without evidence, that rampant "voter fraud" may be taking place in the Democratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"He's stood on the steps of the governor's mansion and tried to use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Broward elections chief," Nelson said. "He's filed lawsuits to try to stop votes from being counted and to impound voting machines. The reason he's doing these things is obvious: He's worried when all the votes are counted, he’ll lose the election."

Nelson's video comes as the recount battle between him and Scott has heated up. On Election Day, Scott appeared poised to defeat the longtime incumbent. But as more votes have been counted in counties such as Broward and Palm Beach, Scott's lead has narrowed to the point where, under Florida law, an automatic machine recount is triggered.

That recount began this weekend and must be completed by Thursday, though lawsuits filed by both Scott and Nelson's camps could complicate that timeline.

A spokesman for Scott responded to Nelson Monday, saying in a statement that Democrat is "once again confused."

We apologize, this video has expired.

"The recount is being managed by the individual and independent Supervisors of Elections in all 67 counties," the spokesman added. "If Bill Nelson has an issue with the way the recount is being run, he should take it up with them."

Republicans such as Scott and President Donald Trump have insisted that Democrats are trying to "steal" the election, with each suggesting that rampant voter fraud could be taking place in the key Democratic-leaning counties.

"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties," Scott said Thursday. "We've all seen the incompetence and the irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida."

No evidence of such fraud has been brought forth. State election officials said they have not seen any evidence of fraud.

As of Monday morning, Scott holds a lead of about 13,000 votes, while former GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis has an edge of about 33,000 votes over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for governor that is also going through an automatic recount.

NBC News has rated DeSantis as the apparent winner and the Senate race as too close to call.

Trump joined in on Monday morning, calling for an end to the recount and for the Republicans to be declared victorious. Without offering any evidence, Trump claimed ballots were "massively infected."

Gillum quickly shot back, saying the president sounded "nervous" about the recount.