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Federal judge rules in two more Florida recount legal challenges

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 11/16/2018 By Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times

Slideshow by Reuters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled in two more election-related lawsuits during the night, hours before the start of hand recounts Friday in two statewide races that are too close to call.

Walker denied a Democratic challenge to Florida's voter intent rules governing undervotes and overvotes. He also rejected a request by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause to prevent Gov. Rick Scott from exercising any authority over the recount process.

Walker, recalling Scott's nighttime press conference on the steps of the Governor's Mansion on Nov. 8, described the governor as "careening perilously close to a due process violation."

But he said Scott has not "crossed that line" of exceeding his lawful authority as Florida's chief executive, and he noted that Scott, as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, has recused himself from certifying Florida's election results.

Democrats sought to invalidate rules dating to 2002 that require county canvassing boards to apply a consistency standard and consider the use of specific "magic words" in deciding whether to count votes as valid during recounts. Enjoining the use of the voter intent standard now would create hardships, the judge decided.

"They are clear, uniform rules that elections officials have been trained to apply," Walker wrote.

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