The Latest: GOP protesters sing anthem outside vote count

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the Florida election (all times local):

1 p.m.

A group of about 30 sign-holding Republican protesters gathered outside the office of Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

As the counting of ballots resumed Friday afternoon, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetzcalled Snipe “either incompetent or corrupt” and accused her of “spinning ballots out of nothing” in the Senate seat between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

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Gaetz, whose district is in Florida’s Panhandle, also said the state should take over the Broward elections office.

Protesters held signs that said, “Brenda Snipes has to go,” ”stop creating votes” and “don’t steal our election.”

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12:15 p.m.

A lawyer for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson criticized Republican Gov. Rick Scott for using his official position to try to influence ballot counting as the two face a potential hand recount in the too-close-to-call Senate race.

During a Thursday night news conference, Scott announced he is suing the Palm Beach and Broward county supervisors of elections, saying “there may be rampant fraud” in the counties that heavily favor Democrats. He’s asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

On Friday, Nelson lawyer Marc Elias shot back at Scott on a conference call with reporters, saying “Just look at the behavior of your governor.”

Elias says it’s “not appropriate” for a governor to suggest he’s going to use his powers to “interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been legally cast.”

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8:55 a.m.

A court in South Florida has been asked to intervene in the tight U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott as the two sides prepare for a possible recount. A hearing was set for 3 p.m. in state court.

Scott filed lawsuit against Broward County Supervisors of Election Brenda Snipes Thursday night, asking the court to order Snipes to turn over several records detailing the counting and collection of ballots. Scott’s thin lead over Nelson has narrowed in the vote-counting in the days since he declared victory on Tuesday night.

Without citing any evidence of wrongdoing, Scott also asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections offices in the Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward counties, questioning whether they have been taking too long in some sort of effort to inflate the Democratic vote.

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12:42 a.m.

Razor-thin margins in Florida’s bitter races for the U.S. Senate and governor are raising the possibility of recounts, potentially prolonging two of the most closely watched contests of the nation’s midterm elections.

In the governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign said Thursday it’s readying for a possible recount. He conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night, though the race has since tightened. DeSantis led Gillum by 0.47 percentage point as of Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has begun preparing for a potential recount in a race that is still too close to call against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Scott held a 0.21 percentage lead over Nelson on Thursday afternoon.

The tight races underscored Florida’s status as a perennial swing state where elections are often decided by the thinnest of margins.

In 2000, Florida decided the presidency by a few hundred votes in a contest that took more than five weeks to sort out.

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