UPDATE: Broward appears to be wrapping things up:
Staff announced that the vast majority of the machine recount was finished at 1 a.m. Thursday. The deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday.
Broward now must finish running 384 duplicated ballots that were damaged during the machine recount. Broward election planning and development director Joe D’Alessandro said the newest batch of 300 is still being printed.
“We’re in the home stretch here,” said canvassing Judge Deborah Carpenter-Toye
It’s a total mess under the sunshine in Florida. The state is once again the center of recount theater—and it’s the usual suspects holding up the show: Broward and Palm Beach counties, the most liberal in the state. Their cousins, Miami-Dade and Volusia, have also been embroiled in controversy, but their not the issue this cycle. It’s been story after story of failure, negligence, incompetence, and possible illegality emanating from these two counties.
First, every county, even the ones ravaged by Hurricane Michael, counted their ballots. They didn’t give updates on the number of outstanding ballots required by law. The lack of transparency forced Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has declared victory over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, to file a lawsuit over the matter. The court ruled that Broward’s ballot-counting process violated public records laws and forced them to comply with all requests; Broward and Palm Beach Counties chose to ignore the order. Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, the elections supervisors for Broward and Palm Beach respectively, have come under extreme scrutiny. Ms. Snipes has a history of just being flat-out awful at her job. Her office has posted election results prior to polls closing in the past, the distribution of absentee ballots has been shoddy, and she illegally destroyed congressional ballots in 2016. Ms. Bucher threatened reporters with arrest for filming and photographing a public canvassing meeting. Oh, and she thought the lawsuit filed against her might be racist, or something. No, it’s because both of you women suck at doing your job and you might be violating the law.
Yet, let’s circle back to Broward County, which recently started its recount yesterday. Here’s what the Miami Herald wrote about the history of Election Day operations before Election Day. We shouldn’t be shocked that the ballot counting hit an iceberg:
Broward County’s Elections Department will receive special attention from state officials this November after a series of glitches, mistakes, and one case of illegal ballot destruction has some voters wondering if they should even trust the results coming out of the elections department telling them to “vote with confidence” on Nov. 6.
Even beyond her own reprimand for authorizing the destruction of ballots, Snipes cannot deny the department’s patchy track record. In 2016, early voting results for Broward were posted a half hour before polls closed, in violation of election law. Her office was sued unsuccessfully because a constitutional amendment was missing from some mail-in ballots. The electronic system used by the county was also later found to have been targeted by Russian government hackers — although it’s unclear whether that affected results and had nothing to do with the early posting.
On multiple occasions, there have been problems with printing mail ballots. And in the August primaries, Broward was the last county to post election results. The department cited reasons from unexpected recounts, delayed jump drive delivery — rumor was they were temporarily lost — to a late influx of mail-in ballots that were still being counted the next day, leaving the results of several races unclear.
So, now here we are. Gov. Scott filed another lawsuit, calling for the police to guard voting machines when they’re not in use (via Reuters):
Scott’s lawsuit on Sunday targeted election supervisors in Democratic-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties. It asked a judge to issue an emergency injunction for the county sheriffs and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to seize all voting machines, tallying devices and ballots when they are not being used until the end the end of the recount and any related litigation is over.
“The Broward and Palm Beach County Supervisors of Elections has already demonstrated a blatant disregard for Florida’s elections laws, making it more important than ever that we continue to do everything possible to prevent fraud and ensure this recount is operated responsibly,” Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott’s campaign, said in a statement.
Scott filed a separate lawsuit late on Saturday against Broward County officials, asking the judge to order that any ballots counted after noon on Saturday be disregarded, saying that to include them would break state law.
But at long last, Broward has started recounting its ballots, something that was unknown whether it would occur yesterday. Still, there are hiccups; they haven’t finished sorting out all the ballots. And we don’t know how much counting will get done today or when election staffers will go back to finish sorting out all the ballots. The deadline is 3 p.m. on Thursday (via Miami Herald):
At 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, the county’s election department stopped separating out the first page of the ballots — which contain all the races to be recounted — and began recounting early votes, said Broward Supervisor of Elections Attorney Lisa Crawford.
“We have begun counting early votes,” she said. “And then they’ll pick up on some of the other sorting that needs to be done.”
She did not know what time the staffers plan to switch back to sorting or how many hours of counting would get done today.
When asked how many hours of sorting were left to do, Broward County’s Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said “as many as it takes.”
But Fred Bellis, Broward’s elections operations coordinator, still has full confidence that Broward will finish by Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline to turn in its results from the machine recounts, ordered Saturday because of the tight margins in the races for governor, senator and agriculture commissioner.
“There hasn’t been a deadline that we’ve missed,” Snipes said.
As of about 3 p.m., Broward Election Planning Director Joseph D’Alessandro announced the county has completed recounting the 299,000 early voting ballots and had separated scores of overvotes and undervotes. In a 4:30 p.m. update, D’Alessandro said Broward had separated out 16 boxes of overvotes and undervotes with an unknown number of ballots inside. Those bins were transported from a shelf on the east wall of the tabulating room to a secure “ballot cage.”
D’Alessandro said the elections office would begin sorting the first pages of about 189,000 vote-by-mail ballots after the4 night crew punched in.
“We have to get all those done tonight,” he said.
Still, the overall picture of ballot counting and servicing voters’ needs has been spotty. Absentee ballots continue to be a problem:
Voters and poll workers from both parties in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have contacted the Miami Herald since Election Day detailing dozens of issues with absentee ballots, ranging from ballots not arriving, arriving late, being returned but apparently getting lost in the mail, or showing on the county websites as not tabulated well after Election Day passed.
There is little data available to quantify the extent of these problems, or say with certainty that the problems were any more significant this election than in past years. But with recounts underway for three key races, triggered by razor thin margins, many who were unable to cast ballots due to problems with the absentee process worry that their vote could have been the one to tip the scale in these tight races.
State elections department data from the 2018 and 2014 midterms show a significant increase in the number of vote-by-mail ballots sent out from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. In all three, more Democrats requested mail ballots than Republicans by a margin of almost 2 to 1, but Republicans returned a higher percentage of ballots.
Though much rarer than reports of not receiving mail ballots at all, were complaints from people who had mailed their ballot back to their elections department, in some cases weeks in advance, only to have them not arrive in time to make the 7 p.m. deadline on election night.
The most common complaints were from voters who either never received their mail ballot, despite requesting it long before deadline, or received it too late to return it in time to be counted. One staffer from the Broward elections department told the Herald that he heard complaints at early voting locations from hundreds of voters who had requested mail ballots but had not received them and decided to vote in person instead.
“I’m pretty infuriated especially given how close the election was,” said Marissa Krimsky, 32, who never received her ballot and couldn’t vote as a result. Krimsky said she originally registered to vote in Miami-Dade in 2013 and has voted by mail in several subsequent elections without problems. This time, she received her voter ID card to her temporary San Diego address on Oct. 25 but her actual ballot never came.
Kirk Nielsen said he mailed his ballot back to Miami-Dade elections on Oct. 29 from a post office in Coral Gables. After the election, his vote was not tabulated by the end Election Day. “It’s definitely strange that it wouldn’t make it across town in much fewer than eight days,” Nielsen told the Herald. “Or did it arrive?”
Lindsay Lecour registered to vote in Surfside and mailed her ballot to Miami-Dade elections around Oct. 23. She didn’t check its status until after the election, only to realize it had not been received. “I have voted absentee for years but never confirmed online,” Lecour wrote. “I guess I just trusted the system to work! Naive.”
On a parting note, you should also know federal prosecutors were asked to look into election documents being altered by Democrats. It related to mail-in ballots (via Politico):
The Florida Department of State last week asked federal prosecutors to investigate dates that were changed on official state election documents, the first voting “irregularities” it has flagged in the wake of the 2018 elections.
The concerns, which the department says can be tied to the Florida Democratic Party, center around date changes on forms used to fix vote-by-mail ballots sent with incorrect or missing information. Known as “cure affidavits,” those documents used to fix mail ballots were due no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 — the day before the election. But affidavits released on Tuesday by the DOS show that documents from four different counties said the ballots could be returned by 5 p.m. on Thursday, which is not accurate.
Among those counties is Broward, which emerged as the epicenter of controversy as three statewide races and three local legislative races went into recounts following the Nov. 6 elections. Republicans have pointed to embattled Broward Elections chief Brenda Snipes' record of past election gaffes in arguing that the largely Democratic country is tilted against them — perhaps fraudulently so.
DOS officials have repeatedly told the media that the monitors they sent to Broward County saw no election fraud. It wasn't until Tuesday that the office revealed publicly that it had turned over information to federal prosecutors.
A lot of funny business is going on in Florida’s most Democratic counties. I wonder why that is…