Federal Judge Just Sided With Democrats in Florida Recount Lawsuit, Will Allow Thousands More Ballots to Be Counted

Judge Betsy Benson, Canvassing Board Chair for Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, shows ballots damaged by machines during the vote recount for three statewide races at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections headquarters on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, in Lauderhill, FL. The ballots will be duplicated and recounted. Election administrators are racing against the clock to machine-recount ballots ahead of a Thursday deadline to present their findings. A more logistically complicated hand recount could follow. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Over a week after the 2018 midterm elections, 11 major elections remain undecided. Seven in the US House, two in the US Senate and 2 Governor's races. Two of those 11 are in the state of Florida, where a Senate seat and Governor's race await recounts.

But not everyone supports counting all the votes cast. The GOP in several states—including Maine and Georgia in addition to Florida—took steps to halt recounts and run-offs. Federal lawsuits were filed by the GOP to stop counts while Democrats filed to count all of the ballots.

Judges are siding with the Democrats so far in Georgia, Maine and Florida.

In Maine, US District Court Judge Lance Walker ruled Thursday on incumbent Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin's attempts to block voter approved ranked choice voting to decide the outcome of his contest against Democratic challenger Jared Golden. Ranked choice voting prevailed and Jared Golden won the seat in the US House of Representatives.

In his decision, Judge Lance Walker stated:

"As it stands, the citizens of Maine have rejected the policy arguments plaintiffs advance against RCV (ranked choice voting). Maine voters cast their ballots in reliance on the RCV system. For the reasons indicated above, I am not persuaded that the United States Constitution compels the Court to interfere with this most sacred expression of democratic will by enjoining the ballot-counting process and declaring Representative Poliquin the victor."

After ranked choice tabulations, Democrat Golden won by 2, 905 votes over Republican Poliquin.

Poliquin is likely to still pursue his lawsuit to overturn ranked choice voting, approved twice by Maine voters.

In Florida, Republicans tried to block counting ballots with "signature issues." But US District Court Judge Mark Walker ruled the refusal to allow voters impacted by this decision to "cure" their ballots was unconstitutional.

Voters affected now have until 5pm on Saturday to remedy any issue with their ballot signatures.

In his Florida ruling, Judge Mark Walker stated:

“The precise issue in this case is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures—with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection—passes constitutional muster."
"The answer is simple. It does not.”

Judge Walker added:

"Let this Court be clear: it is NOT ordering county canvassing boards to count every mismatched vote, sight unseen."
"Rather, the county supervisors of elections are directed to allow those voters who should have had an opportunity to cure their ballots in the first place to cure their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots now, before the second official results are fully counted."

Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott—who is also trying to win the Senate seat against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson—called the ruling baseless and announced a plan to appeal.

Democrats in Florida, of course, saw things differently.

The state deadline for certifying the election results is November 20.

In Georgia, a judge also ruled in favor of counting versus rejecting votes. Gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Stacey Abrams, applauded the decision.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp—who oversees and makes determinations regarding elections—rejected registrations and ballots from mostly minority voters. Republican Kemp is also on the Georgia Governor's ballot, trying to win for the GOP.

As in Florida, the Georgia GOP view differs from that of the Democrats regarding counting all ballots.

While the GOP and President Donald Trump attempt to halt recounts and run-offs to maintain any possible Republican wins in the 2018 midterms, counting continues in several states anyway. The Maine Secretary of State will livestream the tabulation for the 2nd Congressional district ranked choice voting tabulations at noon Thursday on their Facebook page.

People in Florida and Georgia will have to wait a little longer to see the final results of races in their states.

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