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Donald Trump and Rick Scott allege fraud in Broward, Palm Beach vote counting without any evidence
A crowd protests outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP) A crowd protests outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP)

A crowd protests outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman November 13, 2018
Manuela Tobias
By Manuela Tobias November 13, 2018

Without any evidence, President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott have floated accusations of fraud in two left-leaning counties in the aftermath of the Florida election.

"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties," Scott said at a press conference Nov. 8. "And the Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has a history of acting in bad faith."

Both Scott and Trump have cast suspicion about the rising number of votes in the days following election night, causing Scott’s total to dwindle in his bid for U.S. Senate. Trump called the rising number of "found" votes the "Broward Effect" and tweeted that he would send lawyers to "expose the fraud!"

"The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!" he tweeted.

Scott’s race is one of three statewide races in which a machine recount is underway. As of Nov. 10 when the recount was ordered, Scott was about 13,000 votes ahead of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. In the governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis led by about 34,000 votes, and in the state agriculture commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried led by about 5,000 votes.

While there have clearly been problems in Broward, that’s not the same as actual fraud. It’s normal for counting the ballots to continue for days; under state law they had until noon Saturday following the election.

Snipes’ counterpart in Palm Beach, Susan Bucher, said in response to Scott’s comments, "I think it's unfortunate that some of our highest elected leaders in the country are trying to impede our democracy because they don’t like the demographics of our voters. We are here to count ballots. We have to adhere to the laws. I would suspect that they really don't understand the process."

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
No proof of fraud
"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties."
In a press release
Thursday, November 8, 2018
No evidence of fraud

As Scott decried "these shenanigans" in South Florida, two agencies that he oversees said they had nothing to investigate.

On Nov. 8, Scott asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate while he also announced he was suing Broward and Palm Beach election supervisors.

But FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said that no allegation of voter fraud has been sent to the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections.

"We do not have an active investigation," Plessinger said.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi then blasted FDLE for not investigating, and the next day the two offices released a joint statement saying they are "actively engaged in monitoring processes for potential criminal activity."

Sarah Revell, a state elections spokeswoman, told PolitiFact, "Our staff has seen no evidence of criminal activity at this time."

On Nov. 12, a Broward judge denied Scott’s request to impound voting machines when they are not being used in the recount, though he did call for adding more sheriff’s deputies.

Scott's lawyers stated in court documents that Snipes was engaging in "suspect and unlawful vote counting practices" and called for "halting ongoing election fraud."

Broward Judge Jack Tuter called on the lawyers to produce proof of fraud rather than just allege it.

"If someone in this lawsuit or someone in this county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor's office, they should report it to their local law enforcement officer," Tuter said. "If the lawyers are aware of it, they should swear out an affidavit, but everything the lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. Words mean things these days."

Errors and problems aren’t the same as fraud

While there hasn’t been evidence of fraud in counting the votes, there has been a long list of errors and problems following election night in Broward. For example, Scott’s campaign noted that days after the election Broward mixed in about 20 rejected provisional ballots with about 200 legitimate ones.

The Nov. 11 recount was supposed to begin at 7 a.m., but blaming equipment glitches, the first step of separating pages started a few hours late in Broward.

Coupled with Snipes’ history of errors, sluggish vote counting and lawsuits, the office has developed a reputation as a sloppy operation. Earlier this year, a judge found Snipes prematurely destroyed ballots months after a congressional election, leading the state to assign election monitors to Broward.  

In a separate case before the election, a judge ordered Snipes not to open mail-in ballots until the canvassing board convened.

After the midterm election, Scott won lawsuits filed against Broward related to public records and against Palm Beach about procedures for duplicate ballots. Again, neither case was about fraud.

"It is possible here for two things to be true at the same time: There’s no evidence of fraud in the counting of votes in Florida, and the incompetence of Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is deeply troubling," Rick Hasen, professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, wrote in Slate, noting that no state official or judge has found evidence of voter fraud.

Charles Stewart, an MIT political science professor, said fraud generally requires an action with the intention of illegally manipulating the result of an election.  

While there may have been questionable judgements and mistakes, Stewart said, "none of this seems to involve a large number of votes, and none of it appears aimed at shifting the results of the election."

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No proof of fraud
"The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!"
In a tweet
Monday, November 12, 2018
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Our Sources

President Donald Trump, Tweet and Tweet, Nov. 9, 2018

President Donald Trump, Tweet, Nov. 12, 2018

Rick Scott for Florida vs Dr Brenda C Snipes, Broward court complaint, Nov. 11, 2018

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Fox News, "GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott: 'Sen. Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud' to win election," Nov. 10, 2018

Gov Rick Scott, Statement on election results, Nov. 8, 2018

Florida Division of Elections, Timeline for reporting and certification of 2018 election results, 2018

Politico, "'Incompetence': Broward election chief likely to be forced from office by Scott, DeSantis," Nov. 12, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Broward judge denies Rick Scott’s bid to impound voting machines, offers compromise," Nov. 12, 2019

Slate, "There Are No Actual Set Rules for Counting Disputed Ballots," Nov. 5, 2018

New York Times, "Uncounted ballots, overvoted ballots: why is the governor claiming fraud in Florida’s election?" Nov .11, 2018

Miami Herald, "State elections observers have seen no evidence of criminal activity in Broward County," Nov. 10, 2018

Miami Herald, "Whoops! Brenda Snipes’ office mixed bad provisional ballots with good ones," Nov. 9, 2018

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Broward Circuit Court Judge Raag Singhal, FInal order granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, Aug. 10, 2018

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Tampa Bay Times, "Rick Scott sues elections supervisors over vote count, orders FDLE probe," Nov. 8, 2018

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz, "Scott’s request for FDLE probe of Broward vote draws criticism — and goes nowhere," Nov. 9, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Pam Bondi asks state police to investigate Rick Scott’s claims of voter fraud," Nov. 11, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Broward still hasn’t started recount. Deadline is Thursday for 700,000 ballots," Nov. 12, 2018

Miami Herald, "Broward judge rules in favor of elections officials in botched ballot case," Oct. 28, 2016

Miami Herald, "Broward voters to cast ballots for Congress, elections chief, local offices," Aug. 30, 2016

Miami Herald, "Behind the curtain of the most controversial elections department in South Florida," Nov. 2, 2018

Sun Sentinel, "Judge: Change handling of mail-in-ballots," Aug. 14, 2018

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Sun Sentinel, "Oliphant suspended," Nov. 21, 2003

Washington Post, "Lawsuits, acrimony mount over Florida recount battle," Nov. 13, 2018

AP, "Florida recount chugs along as more irregularities surface," Nov. 13, 2018

NBC, "Florida judge sees no evidence of vote-counting fraud in Broward County," Nov. 12, 2018

Miami Herald, "Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence," Nov. 12, 2019

Politico, "Rick Scott's monitors agree with state cops: No Florida voter fraud," Nov. 10, 2018

Palm Beach Post, "Florida elections: GOP, Dems fight in Palm Beach County court," Nov. 9, 2018

Miami Herald reporter Martin Vassolo, Tweet, Nov. 12, 2018

Twitter, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Nov. 11, 2018

WPTV, "Machine recount for 3 Florida races underway," Nov. 9, 2018

WPBF25, Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, Nov. 9, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, No evidence of criminal activity in Broward County, state elections observers say, Nov. 10, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, Florida recount timeline: How did we get here?, Nov. 13, 2018

Youtube, Susan Bucher on allegations made by Gov. Scott, Nov. 9, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, No, President Trump, they haven’t only ‘found’ votes for Democrats in Florida, Nov. 9, 2018

The Hill, Palm Beach judge orders elections official to turn over ballots in legal win for Scott, Nov. 9, 2018

Palm Beach Post, Florida elections: GOP, Dems fight in Palm Beach County court, Nov. 9, 2018

PolitiFact, "Marco Rubio says Broward elections office has history of breaking the law," Nov. 12, 2018

WCTV, Bondi, FDLE issue joint statement regarding midterm election, Nov. 13, 2018

Interview, Chris Hartline, Gov. Rick Scott campaign spokesman, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Marc Elias, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson campaign recount lawyer, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Dan McLaughlin, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson campaign spokesman, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Sarah Revell, Florida Division of Elections spokeswoman, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Gretl Plessinger, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman, Nov. 13, 2018

Interview, Edward B. Foley, directs Election Law at Moritz College of Law  at Ohio State University, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Rick Hasen, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, Nov. 12, 2018

Interview, Charles Stewart, an MIT political science professor, Nov. 12, 2018

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Donald Trump and Rick Scott allege fraud in Broward, Palm Beach vote counting without any evidence