The Center Square
By John Haughey
October 8, 2021
(The Center Square) – The Lake County Republican Party on Sept. 30 passed a resolution calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis and state’s GOP-dominated Legislature to authorize a hand-recount of all 11.1 million ballots cast in Florida in November 2022.
Then-President Donald Trump easily won the state by more than 371,000 votes, securing 51% of the ballot in what, by Florida standards, was a rout.
But Lake Country Republicans believe Trump’s victory margin was larger if not for fraud and are asking lawmakers to “improve election integrity” because, “Many voters of all parties are angry at the findings of election fraud around the states and this is the first action responding to constant Republican concerns about election integrity in Florida.”
Among those Lake County Republicans is the Legislature’s most ardent Trump fan, Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howie-in-the-Hills. His demand last spring for a statewide audit of 2020 election results found no traction, prompting him to pre-file a bill calling on lawmakers to do so during their 2022 legislative session.
Sabatini’s House Bill 99, however, wouldn’t authorize an audit of Florida’s entire 2020 election, but only those in “every precinct in each county with a population of 250,000 or more,” generally urban areas controlled by Democrats
Sabatini’s HB 99 is similar to what Texas GOP lawmakers pressured the state’s elections office into doing, launch a “full forensic audit” of 2020 election results in four Democratic-dominated counties.
Sabatini maintains Democratic counties failed to flag duplicate online voter registrations, which is among concerns from his constituents about Democrats cheating in elections.
“It’s not about margin of victory,” Sabatini said. “It’s the fact is that people want total verification of the election results. They want an independent review of the votes.”
Meanwhile, Florida Republican State Committee member Alfie Oakes, a Naples business owner and key GOP contributor, has pledged $100,000 to DeSantis’ re-election campaign if the governor meets with him to review alleged evidence that Florida’s 2020 election was fraud-riddled.
Similar audit demands are circulating around county committees and state legislatures nationwide, including in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where Republicans on a Senate committee have launched their own “forensic investigation” into 2020 election results “as part of the committee’s comprehensive election integrity investigation.”
In Montana, 86 of 98 state GOP lawmakers support creating a joint legislative committee to review 2020 election results after “many of our constituents … reached out to us with questions about Montana election security.”
In South Carolina, the Lexington County GOP Committee Wednesday petitioned Gov. Henry McMaster to audit its 2020 election results. Although Trump won the county with 64% of the vote, the committee maintains because voter rolls weren’t “sufficiently cleaned,” illegal votes were cast, diluting Trump’s margin of victory.
But thus far in Florida, other than brief comments by Secretary of State Laurel Lee, the only response audit calls have received from DeSantis and Republican leaders in Tallahassee is crickets.
On Nov. 4, DeSantis loudly proclaimed Florida’s 2020 election performance the day before was a national “model” and has said little since.
“People are actually looking at Florida and asking the question, ‘Why can’t the states be more like Florida? Florida was able to handle 11 million ballots,’” he said on Nov. 4. “The way Florida did it, I think, inspires confidence. I think that’s how elections should be run.”
In July, Lee dismissed Sabatini’s HB 99 a waste of time and energy.
“Florida’s election in 2020 was accurate, transparent and conducted in compliance with Florida law,” Lee told the Orlando Sentinel. “Florida has already conducted both pre- and post-elections audits, and we are confident in the security and integrity of our 2020 election results. The post-election audit confirmed Florida’s 2020 election was secure and accurate.”