IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republicans claim, without evidence, Florida seats being stolen as top Democrat pushes back

Republicans continued to press ahead with the assertion that Florida's elections were being stolen as two hugely important races head into a recount.
Kellyanne Conway
Counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway is interviewed on television at the White House's North Lawn on Nov. 7, 2018.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

Without offering evidence, Republicans continued defending claims that Democrats are trying to "steal" a pair of Florida seats as mandatory recounts in the Senate and gubernatorial races get underway.

On Election Day, Republican Rick Scott appeared poised to defeat Bill Nelson in the Senate race and Ron DeSantis would win the race for governor over Democrat Andrew Gillum. But as more votes have been counted in counties such as the Democratic-leaning Broward and Palm Beach, Scott and DeSantis' leads have narrowed to the point where, under Florida law, an automatic machine recount is triggered.

As of Sunday, Scott was up on Nelson by .15 percent and had a lead of about 13,000 votes. DeSantis, meanwhile, held a lead of .4 percent and was up roughly 30,000 votes.

The narrowing margin brought about allegations from Republicans such as President Trump and Scott that rampant fraud was taking place in Democratic-leaning counties. Scott and DeSantis have both declared victory. Nelson never conceded while Gillum walked back his concession on Saturday, calling for all the votes to be counted.

"Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida!" Trump tweeted Saturday. "We are watching closely!"

"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."

State election monitors in Broward County told The Miami Herald on Saturday that they've seen no evidence of voter fraud. And Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, said he has seen no evidence of voter fraud in the county. In addition, the state agency tasked with overseeing elections said it is not investigating any claims of voter fraud.

In an interview with Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado — chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — pointed to a pair of recent court decisions when asked if Democrats were trying to steal the elections from Republicans. Judges ruled that election officials in Palm Beach and Broward Counties had to turn over election information regarding how many people voted and how many votes were still left to count.

Todd asked Gardner if he would "accept those results" should the recount lead to "anything other than a Rick Scott victory" and no evidence of voter fraud is found.

"Well, look, this is going to be done on the up and up because we're ensuring that," Gardner said. "We've gone to court. We've won those court cases. We've proven that the violation, we've proven the violation of the Florida constitution."

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was also pushed about the Republican claims that Democrats are seeking to "steal" the Florida elections. During an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," Conway said the president did have evidence to back up that claim.

"Well, the evidence is that Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have won," Conway said. "In fact, Andrew Gillum conceded on the night of the election, now we’re going backwards."

Both races, within the amount legally required to trigger an automatic recount, were too close for NBC News to call as of Sunday.

During an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Scott himself accused Nelson, the incumbent Democratic senator, being "a sore loser" when asked about the recount efforts.

"We've won," Scott said. "I've had to win this election twice now."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed back on Republican claims of Democratic trickery, telling CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday that Trump and Scott "are so afraid of every vote being counted, because they think Scott will lose if that happens, that they're interfering."

"They allege massive fraud," he added. "That's what Scott said. His own Republican officials in Florida said there is no fraud. When you vote by mail, it takes a while to count the ballots, because some of the mail votes come in on Election Day. And that's a process that should be transparent."

This weekend, Florida election officials began the machine recount, which they have until Thursday to complete, Lawsuits filed by both Scott and Nelson's camps, however, could complicate that timeline.

On Sunday evening, Scott filed new litigation in Palm Beach and Broward Counties requesting that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, until the recount is completed, impound and secure all machines, devices, and ballots when not in use. Scott also requested that votes counted after the noon Saturday deadline should not count.

Nelson fired back in a statement, saying that if Scott "wanted to make sure every legal ballot is counted, he would not be suing to try and stop voters from having their legal ballot counted as intended."