Groups Seek To Limit Governor’s Influence In Election Recount

Tallahassee, FL – The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to prevent Governor Rick Scott from using his official powers to influence ballot counting or the certification of results of his hotly contested race for U.S. Senate.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Tallahassee, came amid a recount in Scott’s race with Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and amid a torrent of litigation about ballot counting.

Scott and his campaign have alleged irregularities in Democrat-rich Broward and Palm Beach counties, including Scott last week asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

As governor, Scott’s administration includes the Department of State, which oversees elections. Also, Scott serves on the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, which is scheduled November 20th to certify the results of the general election.

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause are seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would prevent Scott from “engaging, in his capacity as governor or using his authority as governor, in any decisions, directives, control, or influence, either direct or indirect, over the processing and counting of ballots in the 2018 Florida election for U.S. Senate, including but not limited to enjoining defendant (Scott) from participating, in his role as a member of the Elections Canvassing Commission or otherwise, in the certification of the results of the 2018 Florida election for U.S. Senate,” according to a court filing.

Marc Elias – an attorney representing Nelson – says Scott should be removed from any official role in the Florida recount because he’s trying to undermine the process for fear of losing the Senate race.

“What we have seen from him has been a series of frivolous and spurious accusations aimed at undermining the integrity of the election and the confidence that voters have in the election,” Elias told Florida News Network.

In other related legal news, a federal judge has disqualified himself from one of the legal battles stemming from Florida’s election recount.

Pointing to his brother’s involvement in a lawsuit against Scott, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order Saturday that said he was stepping aside from the case in which Democrats are challenging a state law that requires elections supervisors to toss out provisional and mail-in ballots if voters’ signatures don’t match the ones on file.

Hinkle was replaced in the case by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who will hold a hearing Wednesday.

Hinkle’s brother, Tallahassee attorney Donald Hinkle, filed a lawsuit last year seeking to force Scott to disclose more information about his financial assets.

A Leon County circuit judge in February rejected Scott’s request to dismiss the case, and the dispute is pending in a state appeals court.

Robert Hinkle held an initial conference Friday in the ballot-signature case before disqualifying himself from further participation.

“After conducting the scheduling conference and entering an order on November 9, I remembered that my brother is a party to a lawsuit involving Governor Rick Scott,” Hinkle wrote in the order of disqualification. “This would not affect my handling of this case, but a reasonable person might think otherwise.”

In the federal lawsuit, Democratic lawyers contended that “tens of thousands” of Florida voters are “at risk of disenfranchisement” due to a “standardless signature matching process.”

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