Contributing opinion writer

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) addresses the chiefs of police annual convention in Orlando on Oct. 8. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is accusing incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of voter fraud as the votes are being recounted in their very close election for a Senate seat from the Sunshine State.

Yes, this is the same Rick Scott who served as CEO of a health-care company that agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines, both criminal and civil, after a federal fraud investigation. And, who as governor, made it harder for Floridians to vote by cutting early voting days, making registration more onerous and purging mostly minority voters from the rolls. Scott’s approach comes from the standard Republican playbook in close elections in Florida: First, do next to nothing while in power to strengthen the voting infrastructure to assure confidence in close elections. Then, follow these steps when election results are, in fact, too close for comfort: claim victory; decry the legally mandated process of a recount; flood the press with accusations of fraud; and run to the courts as a more reliable venue than the democratic process.

Forgive me if, as someone worked in Al Gore’s presidential campaign, this all sounds depressingly familiar. I remember all of it: Gore taking the high road and asking for the time to do the legally mandated recount; and the George W. Bush campaign, ginning up borderline-violent crowd protests, delegitimizing the process through the press; pointing to phony issues such as accusing Democrats of not wanting to count the absentee ballots of service members; and turning to the courts for relief as the vote totals started to move against them. (For those who don’t remember, the Supreme Court stopped the 2000 Florida recount with Gore gaining votes and Bush’s lead down to less than 600 votes.) Of course, one thing is different this time; while President Bill Clinton in 2000 respected the recount by remaining silent, our current president has echoed Scott by saying that Democrats are trying to steal the elections.

In 2018, the Republican playbook may not work in Florida. But if it does not result in the election of Scott and Ron DeSantis, then Plan B will go into effect: Millions of Floridians will believe that neither Nelson nor Andrew Gillum hold office legitimately. And that is what is so disgusting and dangerous about this Florida election redux: Republicans want to win by stopping the votes from being accurately tallied, or they want to “win” by neutering their opponents if they should prevail. Either way, democracy loses. Again.

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