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Florida judge bemoans ‘laughing stock’ election recount system

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U.S. judges in Florida and Georgia on Thursday cleared the way for more ballots to be counted in undecided Senate and governor races, with the Florida jurist expressing frustration with an election system he called “the laughing stock of the world.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee, Florida, said his ruling aimed to ensure that as many as 5,000 people across the state who submitted ballots by mail that were rejected by election officials had a chance to have their voices heard.

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In Florida, the recount of close races from the Nov. 6 elections and attendant legal disputes over the validity of votes have stirred memories of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped an ongoing recount in the state, sending George W. Bush to the White House.

Walker grew testy during a series of Thursday hearings about lawsuits over the recounts, voicing frustration about how to handle different responses from a patchwork of county systems and also questioning the Florida legislature’s response to historic election problems.

“We have been the laughing stock of the world election after election,” Walker said. “But we’ve still chosen not to fix this.”

Separately, a federal judge in Georgia ordered state election officials to count some previously rejected ballots in that state’s governor’s race, where ballots are still being counted but Republican former Secretary of State Brian Kemp has declared victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Initial counts after the elections showed Florida’s outgoing governor, Republican Rick Scott, leading in his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Republican Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race.

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In both races the margins of victory were below the 0.5 percentage point threshold at which state law requires a recount of ballots. The first round of recount, conducted by machine, is due to end at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday (2000 GMT).

Judge Walker’s ruling extends until 5 p.m. Saturday the window for voters whose ballots were challenged to confirm their identities.

Overall control of the U.S. Senate is not at stake in the Florida race. President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans extended their majority in the chamber while Democrats took a majority in the House of Representatives. But both the Senate and governor’s races are being closely scrutinized as Florida is traditionally a key swing state in presidential elections.

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The Democrats’ majority in the new House expanded by another seat on Thursday when the Maine Secretary of State’s office declared Jared Golden the winner of a race against incumbent Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin. That race represented an early test of a new state ranked-choice voting system, designed to prevent candidates in races with three or more contenders from winning office without majority support.

LEGAL SKIRMISHING
In Florida, Nelson’s lead attorney in the case, Marc Elias, praised the judge’s ruling on Thursday.

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Republicans, who have also filed lawsuits challenging the process, decried the ruling and the Scott campaign filed an appeal.

“Another day, another chance for Marc Elias to rack up massive legal fees regardless of the blatant hypocrisy … or the damage this will do to Bill Nelson’s legacy,” Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in an emailed statement.

It was not clear that additional ballots allowed in either Florida or Georgia would tip the races in question.

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Current official tallies from Florida show Scott leading Nelson by 50.07 percent of the vote to 49.92, with DeSantis on 49.59 percent to Gillum’s 49.18 percent.

Georgia’s results show Kemp leading Abrams 50.23 percent to 48.83 percent. The election was a three-way race that included a Libertarian candidate who drew close to 1 percent of the vote, and if Kemp’s total ended up dipping below 50 percent, he and Abrams would proceed to a runoff next month.

Just three of 15 consequential recounts of statewide U.S. elections from 2000 through 2015 resulted in a change of winner, according to a 2016 analysis by FairVote. Those recounts resulted in an average margin swing of just 0.019 percent – less than the margins in any of the three races currently being recounted, according to the nonpartisan group.

This year’s campaigns went down as the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, with some $5.25 billion spent on advertising, up 78 percent from the last midterm elections in 2014, according to a Kantar Media analysis released on Thursday. Spending was 20 percent higher than the 2016 presidential election.

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Reporting by Letitia Stein; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘These are massive glitches’: CNN anchor explains how Trump’s small business loan program is failing

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President Donald Trump is insisting that his administration's implementation of an emergency lending program for small businesses has been "flawless," but CNN anchor Julia Chatterley explained on Tuesday morning that the president's rosy assertion isn't close to being true.

During a panel discussion about the program, Chatterley said that the sheer number of calls from distressed small businesses has been completely overwhelming the system, which so far has been unable to handle the large volume.

"These are massive glitches," she said. "These are technology issues, the infrastructure can't deal with it... I heard one of the largest banks in the country issued billions of dollars of loans, [but] they only managed to upload applications to the tune of thirteen -- 1-3 -- on Sunday."

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Morning Joe’s Mika: Thousands are dying of COVID-19 because Trump is ‘surrounded by inexperienced suck-ups’

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MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski got right to the point on Tuesday morning by saying people are getting sick and dying in the U.S. because Donald Trump is surrounded by a collection of "suck-ups" who won't tell him the brutal truth about what is happening in the country.

As part of a "Morning Joe" panel discussion on the failings of the Trump administration to head off of the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the country -- despite ample warnings it was on the way -- Brzezinski, as well as co-host Willie Geist, levied some hard accusations against the president and his team.

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika reveal why Trump likely ignored startlingly accurate COVID-19 memos

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked President Donald Trump for apparently ignoring startlingly accurate warnings from trade adviser Peter Navarro about the coronavirus pandemic.

Navarro's memos were circulated at the highest levels of government in January and February, but the president downplayed the virus until early March, when statewide lockdowns started wrecking the U.S. economy.

"In one worst-case scenario cited in the memo, Navarro warned that more than half a million Americans could die, and, yet, weeks after that, you had Donald Trump at rallies saying that in April when it warms up, this will miraculously go away," Scarborough said. "Put this in context with, I suppose you could say with 9/11, the memos warning of al-Qaeda attacks using airplanes, maybe missed signals FDR didn't pick up on before Pearl Harbor. I really don't know, though, what parallel there can be, because so many more people are going to die because of these missed signals."

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