Judge orders release of Florida voter information
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Broward County judge has ordered the immediate release of voter information sought by Florida Gov. Rick Scott from the county's supervisor of elections.
Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips set a 7 p.m. Friday deadline for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to turn over the voter information under Florida's open records laws. Phillips found that Snipes violated that law by failing to turn over the information to attorneys for Scott's Senate campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Scott has a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
Lawyers for Snipes argued that requiring such a swift response would interfere with ongoing efforts to finish counting Broward County ballots. But lawyers for Scott contended the information is already required to be collected under state law and should take minutes to provide.
The information sought includes ballots not yet reviewed by the Canvassing Board, absentee ballots and early voting ballots.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he would ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties; however, a spokeswoman for the agency says state law enforcement officials in Florida have not launched any elections-fraud allegations.
FLDE spokeswoman Gretl Pelssinger said Friday that the agency is working with the Department of State and will investigate any allegations of elections fraud, but right now, there are no such allegations.
Scott announced his intention to have law enforcement look into Broward and Palm Beach counties at a news conference Thursday night. Shortly after, President Donald Trump tweeted that law enforcement was looking into another big corruption scandal, claiming "Florida voted for Rick Scott.
Scott holds a razor-thin lead over Nelson. Under Florida law, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate's margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.
Scott says "unethical liberals" are trying to steal the election. Earlier Friday, Nelson lawyer Marc Elias criticized Scott for suggesting that he might get the state government involved.
Elias said it was "not appropriate" for a governor to suggest he was going to "interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been legally cast."