It's Déjà Vu in Florida, land of recounts and contested elections

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LAUDERHILL, Fla. — The election that must not be named, the one that scarred Florida’s collective psyche 18 years ago, came back to haunt the state Friday.

Lawyers and party activists raced to Broward and Palm Beach counties, where two of the most closely watched races in the country — for a Senate seat and for governor — still hang in the balance.

Judges held emergency hearings, siding with Republicans who questioned the secrecy imposed on ballot counts by local elections officials. Democrats sued, challenging local processes that render thousands of ballots invalid.

President Donald Trump weighed in, warning darkly on Twitter of “potential corruption” and “election theft,” though there was little or no evidence to suggest anything more than the usual delay and dithering that have come to characterize Florida elections.

Patience was hard to find Friday, and nowhere was it scarcer than in Broward County, the state’s second-largest county and a Democratic bastion that has had so many ballot controversies that The Miami Herald called it “the most controversial elections department” in South Florida. Dozens of protesters descended on a canvassing board meeting there Friday to demand the ouster of an elections supervisor who has presided over many of Broward’s ballot-counting dramas.

The supervisor, Brenda C. Snipes, is an elected Democrat, initially appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, and her office has been criticized for a litany of problems.

By Friday, when the Senate race appeared to be squarely within the margins of an automatic recount — Republican Gov. Rick Scott was ahead of the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Bill Nelson, by only 0.18 percentage points — the governor’s own lawsuits were heard in state court. He had filed them the night before against Snipes and her counterpart in Palm Beach County, Susan Bucher, over how the last ballots were being counted and reported.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner was expected Saturday to order recounts in both the Senate and governor’s races, in addition to the race for state agriculture commissioner, once unofficial results come in from all of the state’s 67 counties. In the contest for governor, Ron DeSantis, a Republican, leads Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, by 0.44 percentage points.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Patricia Mazzei and Frances Robles © 2018 The New York Times

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