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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.

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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.

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).

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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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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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.

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

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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MSNBC pundit nails Trump for only attacking Black voices on Fox News

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Democratic strategist Joel Payne called out President Donald Trump Sunday for his attacks on Fox News when he was leaving New Jersey.

Before Trump landed in Marine One at Morristown, New Jersey, he tweeted an attack on Juan Williams, the only Black pundit on the Fox News show "The Five."

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1163167660764532736

Trump briefly addressed Williams, before he told members of the press that he found it appalling Fox News hired a friend of Hillary Clinton's, whose name he couldn't even remember.

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Missouri official choose Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ for swearing-in ceremony instead of ‘The Bible’

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A Missouri county official is being both celebrated and attacked after a decision to forgo The Bible for her swearing-in ceremony and opted for a copy of Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss.

The Friendly Atheist at Patheos captured the story, posting a photo of St. Louis City Councilmember Kelli Dunaway's children holding a copy of the book while she took her oath of office.

This was the scene last week at the STLCO government center. Democrats took back control of the council and @DunawayKelli was sworn in on a copy of “Oh the Places you’ll go” with her children❤️ so proud to be part of #TeamKelli pic.twitter.com/iJ1dxfZ1Zg

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Trump predicts New York Times will go out of business when he’s out of office

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In a permission tweet, President Donald Trump announced that his presidency is the only thing keeping the New York Times in business. Yet, somehow, they're also attacking him and lying about him.

"The New York Times will be out of business soon after I leave office, hopefully in 6 years. They have Zero credibility and are losing a fortune, even now, especially after their massive unfunded liability. I'm fairly certain they'll endorse me just to keep it all going!" he tweeted.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1163238629730373632

Since taking office, subscriptions for The Times have increased dramatically. According to an August report, The Times boasted a 4.7 million increase in subscribers for the second quarter. Their revenue growth was 5.2 percent. It certainly is a modest increase, but it's also an increase in an era when newspapers are struggling to survive.

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