WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) - Florida's midterm melee is over, leaving in its wake memories of overheating ballot machines, voters unable to fix rejected ballots, and a Senate candidate intimating on national TV that there was "rampant" election fraud in the Sunshine State.
Florida's election results were certified Tuesday, with Republican challenger and parting Florida governor Rick Scott winning his bid to take a U.S. Senate seat from three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
Among other close races, Republican Ron DeSantis, an avid backer of President Donald Trump, prevailed over his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum in the contest for governor.
The results were certified by the Elections Canvassing Commission: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and state senator Rob Bradley. Bradley replaced Gov. Scott on the commission after the governor recused himself.
Scott won the Senate seat by roughly 10,000 votes, according to the Florida Division of Elections' latest posting. He'd seen his lead trimmed by more than 2,000 votes since the recount began.
The only U.S. Senate race that remains undecided is the Mississippi Nov. 27 special-election runoff to serve out the term of GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned, citing health issues.
Now that Scott is headed for the Capitol Building, Republicans have extended their 51-seat Senate majority by two seats. The midterm elections gave Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives with a net gain of more than 30 seats. (Several House races remain undecided).
Tuesday's election certification in Florida put a cap on nearly two weeks of legal wrangling and ballot-tallying chaos. The saga culminated with the resignation of Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes over the weekend.
Florida's Past Election Law Fix Didn't Work, Judge Says
In a labyrinth of election-related litigation filed by Scott and Nelson, several key orders emerged from Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Florida federal court.
In one decision, Judge Walker found that Florida does not give voters a proper chance to lodge a challenge when their mail-in or provisional ballots are rejected for signature-matching issues.
He made the observation in a case brought by Nelson's campaign, which alleged that Florida counties' methods for matching ballot signatures to signatures on file were inconsistent and resulted in disproportionate rejection of minority voters' ballots. Thousands of ballots were rejected for signature problems across the state this year.
The lack of a "cure period" for voters to address ballot rejections was the focus of a prior lawsuit in 2016, Fla. Democratic Party v. Detzner. That case led the state to reform its election law to provide more voter protections in the event that a ballot is rejected.
According to Judge Walker, the changes to the law were not sufficient. The judge found that with the reforms in place, state law still set an illogical pre-election deadline for mail-in voters to address signature-mismatch issues. If a voter’s mail-in ballot is received on election day and is found to have a mismatched signature, the voter is left with little recourse to ensure his or her vote is timely counted, the judge found.
Judge Walker suggested Florida adopt a longer ballot-curing period employed in other states such as Oregon.
Upheld in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge's decision gave affected voters until Saturday to ensure their votes were counted.
Failing, Outdated Equipment Blamed for Recount Blunders