State Politics

Bill Nelson sues to block fax, email votes in Bay County from being counted

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.

Less than 24 hours since his last suit was filed, Bill Nelson is suing Bay County again.

The incumbent candidate for U.S. Senate, who has filed three other lawsuits in the past week, is suing Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen to stop any ballots received via email or fax from being counted.

The second round of unofficial returns is due from the counties at 3 p.m. Thursday

The supervisor told the Herald/Times Monday that 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 ballots were domestically faxed in, though state statute does not allow emailed ballots, and faxing in ballots is only permitted for military and voters overseas.

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Andersen defended his decision then, noting the Bay County voters who were displaced by the storm that rocked the heavily Republican coastal county one month ago.

On election night, Republican candidate Gov. Rick Scott won roughly 74 percent of the vote in Bay County.

Scott issued an executive order filed Oct. 18 that allowed elections supervisors in eight counties affected by the hurricane to extend early voting days and designate more early voting locations. But it did not allow for votes to be returned by email or fax to the 225,000 voters in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties.

Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order,” the Florida Department of State wrote in an October news release. “In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots.”

Nelson’s most recent complaint marks the 13th major recount-related lawsuit the state has seen since the midterm election.

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Andersen was not aware that a lawsuit had been filed until he received a call from a reporter Thursday inquiring about the filing.

“They seem to just come up with the reasons, go a different direction and then surprise whoever they’re doing it to,” Andersen said. “I have no comment.”

On Wednesday, Nelson sued Andersen for copies of vote-by-mail ballots received via email or fax. Andersen was not aware of that lawsuit, either, until a reporter called.

Earlier this week, Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee sued Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner twice — once asking for an immediate injunction to force the state to count all mail-in and provisional ballots that are deemed to have a signature mismatch and the other to extend the deadlines for machine and manual recounts so that all 67 counties in the state can finish them on time.

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