Florida elec­tion re­count un­der­way

Close races for Se­nate and gov­er­nor prompt statewide re­view

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - KELLI KENNEDY AND TERRY SPENCER

FORT LAUD­ERDALE, FLA. — Af­ter some early bumps, more than half of Florida’s 67 coun­ties be­gan re­count­ing votes Sun­day in the ra­zor-thin Se­nate and state races, bring­ing back mem­o­ries of the 2000 pres­i­den­tial fi­asco.

In Demo­cratic-lean­ing Broward County, the area con­tain­ing Fort Laud­erdale, the sched­uled start of the re­count was de­layed Sun­day be­cause of a prob­lem with one of the tab­u­la­tion ma­chines. The Repub­li­can Party at­tacked Broward’s su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions, Brenda Snipes, of “in­com­pe­tence and gross mis­man­age­ment” fol­low­ing the de­lay, which was re­solved within two hours.

The county, the state’s sec­ond­most pop­u­lous, is emerg­ing as the epi­cen­tre of con­tro­versy in the re­count. Broward of­fi­cials said they mis­tak­enly counted 22 ab­sen­tee bal­lots that had been re­jected, mostly be­cause the sig­na­ture on the re­turn en­ve­lope did not match the one on file. It is a prob­lem that ap­pears im­pos­si­ble to fix be­cause the bal­lots were mixed in with 205 le­gal bal­lots. Snipes said it would be un­fair to throw out all the bal­lots.

The re­count in most other ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tres, in­clud­ing Mi­ami-Dade and Pinel­las and Hills­bor­ough coun­ties in the Tampa Bay area, was on­go­ing with­out in­ci­dent on Sun­day. Smaller coun­ties are ex­pected to be­gin their re­views Mon­day, Tues­day or Wed­nes­day. All coun­ties face a Thurs­day af­ter­noon dead­line to com­plete the re­count.

The re­views are an un­prece­dented step in Florida, a state that’s no­to­ri­ous for elec­tion re­sults de­cided by the thinnest of mar­gins. State of­fi­cials said they weren’t aware of any other time ei­ther a race for gov­er­nor or U.S. Se­nate in Florida re­quired a re­count, let alone both in the same elec­tion.

Un­of­fi­cial re­sults show that Repub­li­can for­mer U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis led Demo­cratic Tal­la­has­see Mayor An­drew Gil­lum by 0.41 per­cent­age points in the elec­tion for gov­er­nor. In the Se­nate race, Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Bill Nel­son is 0.14 per­cent­age points.

State law re­quires a ma­chine re­count in races where the mar­gin is less than 0.5 per­cent­age points. Once com­pleted, if the dif­fer­ences in any of the races are 0.25 per­cent­age points or be­low, a hand re­count will be or­dered.

As the re­count un­folded, Repub­li­cans urged their Demo­cratic op­po­nents to give up and al­low the state to move on. Scott said Sun­day that Nel­son wants fraud­u­lent bal­lots and those cast by non-cit­i­zens to count, point­ing to a Nel­son lawyer ob­ject­ing to Palm Beach County’s re­jec­tion of one pro­vi­sional bal­lot be­cause it was cast by a non-cit­i­zen.

“He is try­ing to com­mit fraud to win this elec­tion,” Scott told Fox News. “Bill Nel­son’s a sore loser. He’s been in pol­i­tics way too long.”

Both the state elec­tions di­vi­sion, which Scott runs, and the Florida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment have said they have found no ev­i­dence of voter fraud. Gil­lum and Nel­son have ar­gued each vote should be counted and the process al­lowed to take its course.

Florida is also con­duct­ing a re­count in a third statewide race. Demo­crat Nikki Fried had a 0.07 per­cent­age point lead over Repub­li­can state Rep. Matt Cald­well in the race for agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner, one of Florida’s three cabi­net seats.

From a dis­tant glance, the re­counts might dredge up mem­o­ries of the 2000 pres­i­den­tial re­count, when it took more than five weeks for Florida to de­clare Ge­orge W. Bush the vic­tor over Vice-Pres­i­dent Al Gore by 537 votes, thus giv­ing Bush the pres­i­dency.

But much has changed since then. In 2000, each county had its own vot­ing sys­tem. Many used punch cards — vot­ers poked out chads, leav­ing tiny holes in their bal­lots rep­re­sent­ing their can­di­dates.

Some vot­ers, how­ever, didn’t fully punch out the pres­i­den­tial chad. Those hang­ing and dim­pled chads had to be ex­am­ined by the can­vass­ing boards, a lengthy, tire­some and of­ten sub­jec­tive process.


An­drew Gil­lum, the Demo­crat can­di­date for Florida gov­er­nor, has with­drawn his con­ces­sion in the race.

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