According to Politico, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will, in all likelihood, come up short in his effort to reverse the results in his race against GOP Governor Rick Scott for Nelson’s Senate seat.
Scott currently leads Nelson by 12,652 votes, while the automatic recount has until Thursday to be tabulated. Politico spoke with experts who assert that Nelson’s last-ditch effort to grab the Senate seat from Scott will fail for two reasons: the lawsuits Nelson filed came too late, displeasing any courts assigned to review them, and the gap between Scott and Nelson is simply too large to be overcome.
Michael Morley, a Florida State University election law professor, told Politico:
A royal flush is right on the money. Nelson would have to have a perfect hand. He would have to win in every case. And even then, it would not seem to be enough to change the outcome. One study that I’ve seen shows that in the 21st Century, there have only been three statewide races that have had their results changed as a result of a recount. And in each of those races, the margins were in the hundreds, not more than 12,000.”
Currently, only 7,871 absentee ballots were rejected statewide due to “voter error.” 35% came from GOP voters; 36% from Democrats, and 29% from independents. Politico notes that 10,186 other ballots were rejected because their envelopes were unsigned; 31% from Republicans, 44% from Democrats and 24% from independents. Politico calculates, “So if all those ballots were counted, Nelson would have to win 85 percent of them statewide in an election where he couldn’t get 50 percent of the vote so far.”
Politico notes that even if Nelson wins with his lawsuits, there’s no telling the number of ballots that will be counted. There is great irony in the fact that Nelson’s lead attorney, Marc Elias, has contended against a late-filed lawsuit concerning signature mismatches in Arizona, where the Democratic senatorial candidate was ahead and thus stopping the ballot count was advantageous.
The Scott campaign pointed that out, stating, “To put it simply, Democrats in Arizona are using the opposite and contradictory argument to the one they plan to use in court tomorrow in Tallahassee. For them, this isn’t about following the law, and it isn’t about having a free and fair election. This is about getting rid of Florida laws they don’t like.”
University of California election law professor Rick Hasen pointed out the flaw in Nelson’s arguments, writing, “I’m sympathetic to the arguments in general, given my belief that election statutes, when possible should be interpreted to enfranchise voters. But Florida laws were rewritten after the 2000 Bush v. Gore debacle to deal with giving too much discretion to election officials to decide on what counts as a valid vote, and rules that are clear in advance are the best for fair election administration. And the complaints about the rules for dealing with signature mismatches or deadlines are not new.”
Nelson’s campaign is hoping that undervotes, which occur when a ballot is not counted because of unclear marking by the voter, will put him over the top. But Politico notes, “…even if the Senate race in Broward got the same total votes as the gubernatorial contest, Nelson would have to win the additional pool of 26,105 votes by a 50-point margin in a county that he carried by 38 points.” Additionally, the great bulk of undervotes occur because of bad ballot design, and Florida officials are bound legally not to guess which way a voter would have voted.
Morley summed up that even if Nelson wins all his lawsuits, “Where are the votes going to come from?”