Judge denies request to extend Florida recount deadline

A federal judge on Thursday denied a request from Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Georgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests MORE’s (D-Fla.) campaign to extend the deadline for a recount being conducted by Florida counties in his tight Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott (R).

All 67 counties are required to declare their machine recount results by 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.


So far, 66 counties have said that they will be able to meet the deadline. But Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher has said her county would likely not be able to complete its recount by the deadline, describing her office as being in “prayer mode.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker recognized the concerns that some counties would not be able to finish the process, but said there is no clear guidance as to when Palm Beach County would be able to complete the process, saying he could not “fashion a remedy in the dark.”

“This Court must be able to craft a remedy with knowledge that it will not prove futile,” Walker wrote. “It cannot do so on this record. This Court does not and will not fashion a remedy in the dark.” 

Attorneys for Nelson and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) argued that the state’s recount deadlines essentially assured that voters in some counties might have their ballots recounted on time, while voters in other counties could have their ballots “ignored” if local election officials fail to meet state-mandated deadlines.

That violates people’s constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law, Nelson’s lawyers argued.

Walker's ruling, however, did not weigh in on whether the deadlines violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, saying that doing so was unnecessary because “there is a complete dearth of evidence before this Court concerning the status, progress, or expected completion of the ordered recounts in Palm Beach County.” 

Walker ruled in another lawsuit on Thursday morning that some Floridians whose ballots were rejected due to mismatched signatures between their ballots and state records had until Saturday to resolve the issues, siding in part with lawyers representing Nelson’s campaign.

Local officials must submit the results for a machine recount by 3 p.m. on Thursday. If two candidates are separated by 0.25 points or less after that, a hand recount is required under Florida law. The results of a hand recount would be due on Nov. 18.

Final election results must be certified by Nov. 20.