FLORIDA — Gov. Rick Scott will recuse himself from his role on the Florida election commission, which is responsible for certifying the final election results, his attorney told a federal judge Wednesday.
- Scott attends senator-elect orientation
- Broward Supervisor of Elections under fire
- Gillum speaks at event in Orlando
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Democrats had demanded the move, since Scott is wrapped up in the middle of the tightening Senate race.
Meanwhile, a judge ruled Wednesday in favor of Scott's request to have a representative available during the machine recount at the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections, in the same room as the machines that are doing the counting.
Three major Florida races are in a recount: the U.S. senate race between Scott and Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson; the governor's race between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis; and the race for state agriculture commissioner between Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried.
Several campaigns have filed lawsuits.
Scott's lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections had said observers were being forced to watch the recount "... in a separate room, separated by glass and without the ability to hear what is transpiring in the recount room." The Wednesday ruling addressed that.
Nelson and his campaign are back in federal court, asking a judge to push back the deadline for a potential manual recount in the Senate race.
The campaign says it wants to make sure all election officials have enough time to do an accurate recount, since the race is so close.
Scott is in Washington, participating in freshman senator orientation and leadership elections as though he's the new senator from Florida.
The governor decided late Sunday to attend.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he thinks Scott will be elected eventually and certified as the next senator, and as such, Scott should participate in leadership elections for the next Congress.
"I've been through a few of these over the years, and it's a lot better to have a big freshman class than not. So, we are here this morning to welcome our six new Republican senators that allowed us to continue our majority," McConnell, a Republican, said. "We will be headed across the way shortly to elect the leadership team for the next two years.
Scott may be the first candidate in recent years to attend an orientation as a senator-elect before actually being the senator-elect.
Statewide election recounts are extremely rare.
In 2000, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's recount had wrapped up before freshman orientation, so she was able to attend. In 2008, Former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's race had not been called before orientation. He didn't participate.
Embattled Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes says her office is working as hard as it can to meet Thursday afternoon's recount deadline.
Snipes, a Democrat, has been under the microscope and painted as a biased elections supervisor who has a history of bad elections.
Snipes denied those allegations Tuesday.
"In this position, I have been very focused on party, because I want to treat all of the voters in Broward County the same," she said. "I think if you ask the voters, you'd find that I have that reputation. I don't have a reason to hold anything back except that I don't want to give out information that's incomplete or incorrect at that particular time."
Adding to her troubles, some Twitter users found a photo from mid-October that shows Snipes with former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the campaign trail.
It calls in to question Snipes' motivations, even though she has maintained she's unbiased, and her office is doing everything it can to comply with Florida voting laws.
In another case involving Palm Beach County, a judge suspended the deadline for some recounts there after the supervisor of elections said she would only be able to finish the recount in the Senate race by Thursday's deadline.
She said her workers don't have enough machines to do all the recounts at once. Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner is challenging that ruling.
As the recount continues in the race for governor, Gillum made a stop in Orlando on Tuesday night.
He took part in an event called "Count Every Vote," along with faith leaders at St. Mark AME Church.
Gillum trails DeSantis by a narrow margin as the machine recounts continue across the state.
"There is nobody who wants to serve this state more, I assure you, but I want to assure you whether it's me or the other person, I am going to fight with every fiber of my being not only to count the votes now to assure a better democratic process for people who come after us," Gillum said.
As for DeSantis, he has been mostly quiet through the recount process, assembling a transition team in Tallahassee.
With the recount deadline looming, several legal battles stemming from the U.S. Senate race continue. One of those battles involves signatures on vote-by-mail ballots.
On Wednesday, a federal judge heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by Bill Nelson regarding those signatures and the mailed-in ballots. Election officials can reject those ballots if the signatures don’t match voter registration information.
Nelson believes those ballots could be crucial to him erasing his more than 12,000 vote deficit to Rick Scott in the race.
“So I ask each of you, just consider whether or not you’d want you ballot thrown out by an untrained – even though well-intentioned – election worker or a volunteer, all because he or she determined your signature doesn’t look right,” said Nelson on Wednesday in a released statement.
Forensics and handwriting expert Tom Vastrick tells Spectrum News it’s common for people’s signatures to change. But Vastrick says those signatures would have to be drastically different for election officials to disqualify a mail-in ballot.
Vastrick suggests voters who want to ensure their mail-in votes are counted, frequently re-register to make sure their current signatures is in their voter registration information.
The machine recount deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.
Spectrum News Reporters Jason Lanning, Samantha-Jo Roth, Matt Fernandez, and Jeff Allen contributed to this report.