Judge calls Florida 'laughing stock of the world,' gives voters more time to fix ballots

A federal judge blasted Florida legislators and election officials during a Thursday hearing to extend the recount deadline in Palm Beach County, saying the state is "the laughing stock of the world election after election and we chose not to fix this."

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker pointed to the state's history of tight votes — something that has come under the microscope in the years following the 2000 recount in the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore — and noted that Palm Beach County wasn't proactive in preparing for another such recount.

The deadline for counties to complete the machine recount, which was automatically triggered after some Florida races fell within the margin that mandates that by state law, is 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. If the races remain within a certain margin, a hand recount is required with a Sunday deadline for completion.

As of Thursday morning, Republican Gov. Rick Scott holds a lead of about 13,000 votes over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the battle for his Senate seat, while former GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis has an edge of about 33,000 votes over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for governor that is also going through an automatic recount.

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Andrew Gillum, Democratic nominee for Florida governor
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Andrew Gillum, Democratic nominee for Florida governor
Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum speaks at a Florida League of Cities Gubernatorial Candidates Forum in Hollywood, Florida, U.S. August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Candidate Andrew Gillum who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, speaks to voters on a tour of barbershops in Sarasota, Florida, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Letitia Stein
Candidate Andrew Gillum who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, speaks to voters on a tour of barbershops in Sarasota, Florida, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken on July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Letitia Stein
Candidate Andrew Gillum watches a video, which shows his rise from the son of a bus driver, to the mayor of Florida's capital city, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for state governor, during a campaign visit to a barbershop in Sarasota, Florida, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Letitia Stein
Candidate Andrew Gillum who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, speaks to voters on a tour of barbershops in Sarasota, Florida, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Letitia Stein
Tallahassee, Florida Mayor, Andrew D. Gillum addresses the audience at the Netroots Nation annual conference for political progressives in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Tallahassee, Florida Mayor, Andrew D. Gillum addresses the audience at he Netroots Nation annual conference for political progressives in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Tallahassee, Florida Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
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Earlier Thursday, Walker gave Florida residents additional time to fix any mismatched signatures on their mail-in ballots so they can be counted in those crucial races. Walker ruled that the state's law on mail-in ballots places a substantial burden on voters and he gave them until Saturday to fix any signature errors that may prevent their votes from being tallied.

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