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Nelson Campaign Sues To Stop Rejection Of Ballots Based On Voter Signatures

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.
Shawn P. Eklund
U.S. Navy
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Senator Bill Nelson’s campaign and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida have filed a lawsuit against the state’s Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, challenging the rejection of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots based on voter signatures.

Under Florida law, absentee and provisional ballots are only counted if the signatures on them match the signatures that elections offices have on record.

“The fact is that these laws, when taken together, condition the right to vote of millions of Floridians who vote-by-mail, or wind up voting provisionally, on the untrained opinions of canvassing boards or elections officials as to whether or not signatures match,” said Nelson’s campaign attorney, Mark Elias. “The problem is that voters in one county are subject to different standards for reviewing signatures than others and there is no uniform standard or even sufficient training for this, and it’s highly error prone.”

“Studies have shown that laypersons conducting signature matching are more likely to reject legitimate signatures as inauthentic than the other way around,” he went on to say. “This serves as an outright disenfranchisement and burden on the right to vote.”

Meanwhile, Scott has sued the elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, alleging “rampant fraud.”

As of Friday morning, the difference in votes between the Democratic incumbent and his Republican challenger, Governor Rick Scott, was just 15,055 votes, or .18 percent, well within the .25 percent threshold that triggers a manual recount.

Elias believes that most of the absentee and provisional ballots that have yet to be counted will only serve to reduce that margin. “Right now the results are unknown, as to who has won,” he said. “If I had to place a bet I would say it is more likely than not that Senator Nelson will prevail in a recount and therefore be sworn in again to the United States Senate for another term in January.”

Video Of Nelson's Statement

According to the lawsuit, in 2012 and 2016, 1 percent of all vote-by-mail ballots were rejected as illegal. In 2016 alone, 27,700 vote-by-mail ballots were rejected. It’s worth noting that the number of vote-by-mail ballots returned in the 2016 presidential election was 2,758,617, not much higher than the 2,622,194 returned in this past midterm.

Florida counties will continue canvassing operations until noon on Saturday, at which point state law requires them to be finished. Hand recounts should start early Sunday in most counties, according to Elias.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.