Florida begins vote recount as Democrats and Republicans exchange allegations of fraud




 

Recounts of two key US midterm elections began in Florida on Sunday amid accusations of fraud by both sides in the race for governor and a Senate seat.

Exhausted election office employees in the Sunshine State have been told they have until Thursday to tally up votes cast in last Tuesday's election yet again.

Unofficial results which came in shortly after noon on Saturday showed Republican Rick Scott's lead in the race for the Senate had narrowed to 12,600 ahead of Bill Nelson, the Democrat incumbent.

Meanwhile Andrew Gillum, a Democrat vying to become the first black to serve as governor of Florida, retracted an earlier concession after the count narrowed to put him within 33,600 votes of Ron Desantis, the Republican candidate.

Both counts were affected by the slow counting of postal votes, putting the candidates within a margin of error that triggered an automatic machine recount on Saturday.

Accusations of fraud and threats of lawsuits from both sides have conjuring memories of the state's controversial recount during the 2000 presidential election.

The recount ran into early problems in Broward country on Sunday, when a voting machine failed to register all ballots and Republicans asked for all voting machines to be tested.

The count got underway after a two hour delay. The heavily Democratic county, which is due to recount about 700,000 ballots, is one of two where Republicans have made allegations of possible ballot fraud.

Speaking on television on Sunday, Mr Scott, who is the current governor of Florida, said that his opponent was a "sore loser" adding: "Sen. Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to win this election, that's all this is."

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority leader, said: "They don't want the votes counted. We Democrats, we want every single vote counted. That's every American's right no matter who they vote for.

"We're willing to abide by the outcome if every vote is counted and nothing is interfered with. We believe that Bill Nelson will be reelected senator if every vote is counted, and that's what Trump and Scott are so scared of," he added in televised remarks.

The development came as top Democrats called on U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to step aside from overseeing a special counsel probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a letter to the Justice Department's chief ethics officer, Mr Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, asked whether any attorneys at the Justice Department have advised Mr Whitaker to recuse himself and demanded details on any ethics guidance he had received.

President Donald Trump ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and replaced him with Mr Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff, last week.

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