Ken Detzner, Florida's secretary of state, once conducted a voter-roll purge so obvious that the U.S. Department of Justice had to swoop in and stop him. Earlier this year, Detzner brazenly tried to prevent the state from opening more early-voting sites at colleges, which a judge
Now Detzner is magically in charge of initiating any possible recount in the race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson — a man with whom Detzner personally feuded on the 2018 campaign trail — and Scott. While it's more than likely that Detzner will wind up acquiescing and ordering the move, the situation — a cabinet member ordering a recount that could hurt his own governor — smacks of conflicts of interest.
Nelson, the 76-year-old astronaut-turned-boring-Democratic senator, conceded his reelection race last night to Scott, a man who admitted responsibility for his hospital company's theft of ungodly amounts of money from sick people. Floridians yesterday split 50/50 on whether to elect a really boring dude or a frighteningly smooth, scandal-plagued governor.
As of this morning, though, Scott was winning by only 30,000 votes — just .042 percent. In Florida, races automatically head to a machine recount if a candidate wins by less than a half-percentage point. Though Nelson conceded last night, he called for a recount this morning.
"We are proceeding to a recount," Nelson said today.
Next, all 67 counties in Florida will recheck their vote tallies, while Nelson and Scott can contact voters who cast provisional ballots or those whose votes were not counted due to mismatched signatures or addresses. Nelson's campaign said this afternoon that there appear to be 113,000 votes left to be counted in areas that the Democrat claims he can win by 24 percentage points. Nelson's campaign thinks a recount might be able to send him over the finish line.
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Floridians are now waiting on Detzner to pull the trigger. He has not yet done so. Though it is highly unlikely Detzner will ignore the calls for a recount, it's also not insane to wonder about the possible result. Detzner and Scott have a history of working together to launch anti-voting schemes: In 2012, the Department of Justice's civil rights division sued Scott and Detzner after the two tried to shadily purge alleged noncitizens from the state voter rolls. Detzner personally created a list of 2,700 supposedly suspect cases of mostly black and Latino voters — but of those 2,700, 500 were found to have actually been citizens, and only 40 were noncitizens. Cases of outright voter fraud are rare, even in Florida, so critics questioned whether Detzner was trying to help Scott purge Democratic votes.
But that's far from Detzner's only action that seemingly benefited Republican candidates. In 2014, he issued an edict banning Gainesville from opening an early-voting site on the University of Florida campus. The League of Women Voters of Florida and six UF students sued Detzner this year over that ban, arguing that Detzner's move was artificially deflating the votes of young people. A U.S. district judge later agreed and said that Detzner's move showed a "stark pattern of discrimination" and that the state was "throwing up roadblocks in front of younger voters." Detzner also cooperated with Donald Trump's failed "voter fraud" commission led by then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Detzner also personally feuded with Nelson during the 2018 campaign. Nelson has a habit of making outlandish and/or outright false statements in the press — earlier this year, he claimed, without providing evidence, that Florida's election systems had been "penetrated" by Russian hackers. Detzner then fired off a series of public letters to the federal government that reeked of political gamesmanship. At the same time, he faced harsh criticism for not taking better steps in 2018 to boost Florida's election-security systems.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida whacked Detzner and the entire state elections system for invalidating a disproportionate number of absentee votes from black, brown, and young voters.
Under the law, a recount is supposed to be automatic in Florida under these circumstances. All that's left to do now is wait for Detzner to make the call. In the meantime, the Andrew Gillum/Ron DeSantis race for governor continues inching closer to recount territory as well.