UPDATES: Judge rejects suit over Florida mail-in ballots

Florida counties must finish hand recount by Sunday

ORLANDO, Fla. - Here's the latest on the Florida recount.

7:15 p.m.

A federal judge is rejecting a lawsuit that challenged Florida's vote-by-mail deadlines.

A veterans voting rights group and Democrats challenged the Florida law that said ballots mailed inside the United States could not be counted unless they were received by 7 p.m. Election Day. The groups said that was unconstitutional because overseas voters can have their ballots counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and are received within 10 days after the election.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, however, ruled late Friday that these rules were in place for more than a decade and to change them now would "undermine the electoral process."

Walker also said the state had a right to create some sort of deadline and called the restriction "reasonable."

6:15 p.m.

Florida Democrats have started an internal investigation into allegations that Democratic operatives distributed false information to voters.

The Florida Democratic Party on Friday issued a statement that said they had hired an "independent investigator" to look into the allegations of possible wrongdoing.

The Department of State last week asked federal prosecutors to check into the actions of Democrats. Four election supervisors turned over information that showed party operatives changed official forms to say that voters had until two days after the election to fix any problems with mail-in ballot signatures. A federal judge this week gave voters until Saturday to fix their ballots, but the current law requires voters to act before Election Day.

A spokesman for the campaign of Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson should explain what Democrats did.

12:05 p.m.

Election workers across Florida are examining more than 93,000 ballots as part of a hand recount in a contested U.S. Senate race.

A survey of Florida's 67 counties by The Associated Press puts the number of overvotes and undervotes Friday at 93,310 ballots in the race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

An overvote ballot shows more than one selection in a race. An undervote shows no selection in the race.

Election workers are examining these ballots to determine voter intent.

The outcome could determine the winner in the race in which Scott led Nelson by less than 13,000 votes.

Broward had the most overvotes and undervotes of any Florida county -- almost 31,000.

By comparison, neighboring Miami-Dade County had 10,000 such ballots.

11:05 a.m.

Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano says lawmakers will look at problems during the 2016 election and the 2018 recount and discuss changes to the Florida's election laws.

During a meeting with reporters Friday morning, Galvano said "we've had too many problems in too many cycles." He added that he would "have a system with efficacy that doesn't require judicial intervention."

Asked about criticism Republican Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump levelled at elections officials in Palm Beach and Broward counties and whether that undermines confidence in the elections process, Galvano said he's "not sure that there was a lot of confidence going in."

He says "we've sort of been painted with that brush since 2000," adding that by the next election cycle, he thinks "voters are going to want to have more in terms of assurance that their votes are going to be properly counted."

11:05 a.m.

While Broward County completed the hand recount in the Senate race, the canvassing board continued the tedious task of sorting under and over votes, including a voter who wrote in gubernatorial candidate Gillum for the Senate race and another who voted for both Nelson and Scott and also created a third duplicate bubble for Nelson.

Attorneys for both parties watched closely and objected frequently as the board continued its work.

7:55 a.m.

A Florida judge is rejecting a challenge to the rules that will be used in a hand recount in the state's contentious U.S. Senate race.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker late Thursday ruled against Sen. Bill Nelson and Democrats in another one of the lawsuits surrounding the recount.

During the hand recount, election officials look at just the ballots that weren't recorded by voting machines.

[MORE: Here's how the hand recount works]

Under state law, voters must use only approved markings or their ballot is disqualified. And they can't simply cross out a mistaken vote but must explain in writing why they did so. The lawsuit contends that has a discriminatory effect on non-native English speakers and illiterate voters.

But Walker found the rules were reasonable and constitutional.

Florida counties must finish the hand recount by Sunday.

12:30 a.m.

Florida's bitter U.S. Senate contest is headed to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by less than 13,000 votes.

But the contest for Florida governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to be over Thursday, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race. Gillum said in a statement, however, that "it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted."

The recount has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida was unable to finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline due to machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.

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