Dem Lawyer Marc Elias Takes Spotlight in Florida Recount Fight

Michael Avenatti of election law thanks Rick Scott for giving him 'little promotional video'

Marc Elias / Getty Images
November 9, 2018

Democratic lawyer Marc Elias was called out by name on Friday by both Florida governor Rick Scott and President Donald Trump for trying to "steal" Tuesday's election from Republicans.

The Perkins Coie attorney, who for years has been the party's go-to lawyer whenever a candidate ends up in a high-profile legal fight, is enjoying the attention, he told lawyers Friday morning.

"I was happy to see the governor do a little promotional video for me last night about all the recounts I've been involved in," Elias said. "I thank him for that."

Elias was referencing a Thursday night statement by Scott, who was announced the winner over incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson on Tuesday and is now working to protect the victory from an Elias-led legal challenge.

"Senator Nelson hired one of Hillary Clinton's lawyers from D.C., and the first thing he did was tell reporters that he is here to win the election," Scott said Thursday night. "He did not say that he wants a full and fair election or even an accurate vote count."

"He is here to try to steal the election, and to try to thwart the will of the voters of Florida," Scott said.

Scott took aim at Elias for his past comments on behalf of Democratic clients who were ahead in their races.

In 2013, for example, when Elias had a Virginia client ahead by 165 votes—just 0.007 percent—he criticized the Republican for not conceding, saying recounts "do not tend to change the results." The next year in Virginia, Elias had a client up by just over 12,000 votes and said recounts should only be done when there are "dozens or a few hundred votes separating the candidates."

Nelson is currently trailing Scott by about 15,000 votes.

Challenged by reporters on Friday morning over where he expects these 15,000 votes needed to surpass Scott could come from, Elias said it was actually a small margin given the size of Florida.

"Fifteen thousand is a lot of votes when you're talking about an election of 1 million votes," Elias said. "We're talking about an election of 8.5 million votes. When viewed in that arena, it's actually quite close."

Trump followed up on Friday with his own criticism of Elias, who was labeled an "election stealing lawyer" by the president.

"As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Don’t worry, Florida—I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!"

Trump, following the lead of both Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), pointed the finger at Broward County, which has had a long history of mishandling elections. Earlier this year, the county's elections supervisor Brenda Snipes was found by a judge to have destroyed ballots that she was required to preserve.

Snipes has already been cited this cycle for illegally opening mailed-in ballots during the primary, failing to send voters their absentee ballots, and for illegally posting election results before polls closed. The editorial board of Florida's Sun Sentinel on Friday said Snipes had lost "credibility" and should be replaced by Broward County.

Broward was the only county in the state that failed to report the number of votes it had received at the end of the early voting period. Snipes has been unable to say how many votes remain uncounted.

A judge ruled in favor of Republicans on Friday afternoon, finding that Snipes had violated both the state constitution and the public records act and ordering her to make all voting records available by 7:00 p.m. Friday.

Rubio decried the fact that control of a Senate seat was "potentially in the hands of an elections supervisor with a history of incompetence and of blatant violations of state and federal laws."

Scott has expressed frustration at the new votes coming in from Broward, which have already narrowed his margin of victory over Nelson.

"Here's what makes no sense: Where did the 70,000 ballots come from in Broward County?" he said on Friday.

Elias did not comment on Snipes during his Friday morning conference call with reporters. The Nelson campaign did not respond to a follow-up question sent by the Free Beacon.

Scott's campaign has written off the attempt by Nelson's campaign to challenge the results of the election.

"This race is over," said Scott spokesman Chris Hartline. "It's a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career. He is desperately trying to hold on to something that no longer exists."

Nelson had not made any public comment on the election till Friday afternoon, when he said his fight was about "making sure every legal ballot is counted."

Elias said he thinks Nelson will end up holding his seat after a recount is completed.

"If I had to place a bet, I would say it is more likely than not that Sen. Nelson will prevail," Elias said.

An Ohio group Elias represented was investigated in 2015 for forging signatures and registering dead people to vote.