TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy found common ground during an often-testy debate Monday when it came to their confidence in Florida’s elections process.
While Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has kept up an unsubstantiated refrain that a “rigged” election is occurring as his poll numbers have dipped, Rubio and Murphy backed the efforts of elections officials.
Rubio, who supports Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, said he hopes the real-estate mogul will stop saying the election is rigged.
“We have 67 counties in this state, each of which conduct their own elections,” Rubio said during the debate Monday night at the University of Central Florida. “I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election.”
Also, Rubio noted that the state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump backer.
“There is no evidence behind any of this, so this should not continue to be said,” Rubio said. “And do I believe people should have confidence? Yes. And do I believe they should vote? Absolutely.”
Murphy, trying to overcome a deficit in the polls to Rubio in the final weeks of the Senate campaign, agreed.
“Donald Trump said it himself, he’s unhinged now. He’s going to stop at nothing to try to gin up his right-wing base,” said Murphy, who was corrected that Trump had declared himself last week as “unshackled.”
“Who’s counting at this point what Donald Trump has said,” Murphy continued. “What sets us apart as a nation, one of the many things, is that we do respect our election process, that we do have fair elections, where people are going to show up. And Sen. Rubio and I are going to tell you all that we do, and we are going to accept the results of this election.”
Trump, in a tweet Monday morning, called Republicans “naive.”
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Trump tweeted. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
Florida elections officials have reportedly been advised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that a cyberattack on an elections vendor may have exposed some voter data.
However, Meredith Beatrice, Detzner’s spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday that the department had no indications of any “Florida-specific issue,” and that “many safeguards” are in place to ensure a successful election.
She had previously noted the agency “participated in an informational call related to elections security” with federal officials. Beatrice added Tuesday that security and voter participation are the top priorities for the office.
“The Department of State takes the issue of elections fraud very seriously and diligently works with independent supervisors of elections to protect the rights of voters and ensure voter rolls are accurate,” Beatrice wrote. “Voters should feel confident that their votes will be counted.”
Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless, a Republican who serves as president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said Tuesday he didn’t put “very much weight” in Trump’s statements about the elections process.
“The presidential election is our Super Bowl, so we are warming up to the big day, making sure we check and verify and ensure not only the transparency of the process, but the security of the process,” Chambless said. “There is no validity to the report that a voter registered system or tabulation system has been penetrated by any outside sources.”
In August, Chambless wrote a letter to voters that said a high priority is given to security.
“In summary,” Chambless wrote, “recognizing that Florida is a paper-based state, which utilizes the latest state of the art electronic voting systems that are not connected to the internet, but rather operate in a closed network leaving the likelihood of a successful breach improbable.”
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.