This afternoon, roughly 60 people outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office rallied and chanted “Lock her up!” because they think the Democrats are trying to steal an election in Florida.
The short story: There is no evidence for this.
The long story: There is no evidence for this, but Florida Gov. and GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio, and President Donald Trump himself have all mind-melded into one giant, dishonest, idiotic brain which is pushing a theory that Broward County’s slow-counting of ballots is an illegal conspiracy meant to swing the Florida Senate election in favor of incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s currently losing to Scott by a fraction of a percent.
Here’s how the conspiracy played out. On Thursday, Marco Rubio started popping off on Twitter with a “LONG BUT IMPORTANT THREAT (sic) ON ELECTIONS IN #FLORIDA”:
The crux of the argument here is that Broward County, the second-largest in the state and a heavily Democratic county, is counting ballots extremely slowly on purpose in order to rig the election in favor of Democrats. Somewhere in that process, the theory goes, is fraud.
Like most good conspiracies, there are some nuggets of truth. By all accounts, the Broward County elections department really is terrible at its job. Per the Miami New Times:
Look, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office sucks. It screwed up in 2000, got caught breaking the law by deleting ballots in 2016, and is in full-scale chaos right now. Oft-embattled Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes says she has no idea how many provisional and absentee ballots are left to be counted in her office.
Though Rubio is correct that the Broward elections department absolutely sucks, the office has never been accused (credibly, at least) of tampering with election results or illegally tipping the scales toward one candidate. There’s also zero evidence that the Democratic “lawyers” Rubio references are up to anything more nefarious than normal.
As the New Times also points out, Snipes is becoming the center of the conspiracy (that’s who the protestors are chanting “lock her up” about). But while she’s apparently bad at her job, she’s not exactly some Democratic plant. She was appointed by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, and Rick Scott—who is and has been the governor of Florida for the past eight years—could have fired her at any time. He didn’t.
Also, Bay County, Rubio’s example in the above tweet, saw 65,000 votes compared to Broward’s more than 700,000. Not really the same deal!
Rubio’s other big conspiracy point is his claim that Florida requires early voting and votes-by-mail to be reported 30 minutes after polls close, which he then puts next to the fact that Broward’s still counting votes to allege that all of this is illegal. That’s not how it works. Here’s a reporter from Broward County’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel explaining that counties actually have four days to submit their unofficial returns.
Scott, who is still the governor of Florida, has happily jumped on all of this, announcing last night that he was suing both Broward and Palm Beach counties. He also called for an investigation by law enforcement:
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Politico reported, is not pursuing an investigation because no voter fraud claims have been made.
Like all things dumb and detrimental to democracy, all of this made its way to Trump. On Friday morning, he went off, posting six different tweets about Florida and Broward County reinforcing the conspiracy. First he made a Russia joke, but then moved into characterizing the Democrats’ lawyer Marc Elias as “election stealing,” saying he was sending much better lawyers to expose the “fraud.”
For reference, they “never” find Republican votes because Broward County has more than double the number of active Democrats to Republicans. Trump tweeted several more times, however, eventually thanking Rubio for helping to “expose potential corruption.” Which brings us back here, with dozens of angry-ass MAGA-heads parade outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office.
What a ludicrously dumb country we all live in.