State Politics

Here’s another reason Florida’s 2018 recount may remind you of 2000: The lawyers

How does an election recount work?

Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.
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Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.

Call it the “Recount Redux.”

Among the lawyers popping up at the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office Thursday were William Scherer and Ben Kuehne — a pair of legal throwbacks to Florida’s fiercely disputed 2000 presidential election recount.

“The embarrassing nickname for Florida is Flori-duh because of Broward,” Scherer said, with recounts looming in major races after Tuesday’s general election. “And this is Flori-duh again.”

Scherer was on hand for Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Despite being in the lead, Scott appears headed for a manual recount of ballots in a tight U.S. Senate race with Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Kuehne was in Broward for Democrat Nikki Fried. She is also facing a hand recount in a close contest against Republican Matt Caldwell for state agriculture commissioner.

Scherer and Kuehne joined other politically connected lawyers as they watched for vote updates and disqualified ballots with the final tally from Tuesday’s midterm election still being tabulated at Broward’s elections office in Lauderhill. The results of all Florida votes must be certified by noon Saturday by the secretary of state, who has the authority to order recounts.

Scherer questioned why Broward doesn’t even have an estimate on how many ballots were left to count. “How hard is it to count what came in the last few days?” he said.

Other prominent attorneys from Florida’s 2000 election recount have also stepped onto the stage of the state’s latest political drama, including Barry Richard. Back then, Richard was one of the lead lawyers for Republican George W. Bush, arguing against the presidential recount before the Florida Supreme Court. Thanks to winning Florida by a slim 537 votes, Bush beat Al Gore for the presidency.

This time around, Richard is representing Tallahassee Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is trailing Republican Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race. The vote margin between Gillum and DeSantis will likely be narrow enough to trigger an automatic machine recount.

Another veteran of the 2000 ballot showdown, high-profile Fort Lauderdale attorney Mitchell Berger joined the Florida Democratic Party’s legal team for the upcoming state recounts. Berger is a longtime Democratic donor and friend of Gore’s.

On Thursday, Scherer recalled an incident from the infamous 2000 recount, when the Broward canvassing board brought in boxes of ballots some poll worker left in his car and forgot to count.

Scherer said he’s filed several lawsuits against Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes’ office over the years, including one involving absentee ballots and write-in candidates and another involving a candidate’s name change.

Asked why he was hanging around her office, Scherer said: “There could be opportunities for voter fraud,” Scherer said. Why? “Because it’s in Broward.”

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this story.

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