ICYMI: Around 3,000 Votes Just Vanished During The Machine Recount In Florida's Elections

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Posted: Nov 21, 2018 3:20 PM
ICYMI: Around 3,000 Votes Just Vanished During The Machine Recount In Florida's Elections

The Florida elections were a nightmare. They were one of the last to be called. Two of the most liberal counties—Palm Beach and Broward—were not following state law by giving regular updates on how many ballots were left outstanding. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, now senator-elect, had to file multiple lawsuits, with a judge ruling that the two counties had ballot-counting measures that were in violation of public records laws. Then, Broward mixes in rejected provisional ballots with good ones, but Palm Beach faced the more serious allegation: that Scott’s campaign representatives were barred from witnessing the replacement ballot procedure, as required by law. To reduce disenfranchisement, if a machine cannot read a ballot, the election official can create a new one. In essence, the election official is creating a new ballot. It’s a process where fraud is possible, hence the witness provision. Palm Beach election supervisor Susan Bucher also threatened reporters with arrest for filming and photographing…the public canvassing meeting. 

The machine recount was another disaster. Palm Beach didn’t finish under the deadline. Broward missed it by two minutes, so their results were rejected and the original unofficial tallies were taken into account. During the hand recount, Broward had to stop temporarily because volunteers were counting the wrong ballots. It was a total mess. Broward’s election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, has tendered her resignation, but not before leaving behind a legacy of incompetence and negligence in her wake (via WSJ):

Ms. Snipes, 68 years old, was appointed to the position in 2003 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, to succeed a supervisor removed after widespread accusations of mismanagement. A former public school administrator and a Democrat, Ms. Snipes garnered praise at first for stabilizing the office and overseeing relatively smooth elections. She has been re-elected several times, most recently in 2016.

In 2004, however, she lost track of 58,000 absentee ballots, blaming the post office for losing them before revising the number of lost ballots to 6,000 and quickly getting replacements to voters. A judge this year ruled that Ms. Snipes violated law by prematurely destroying ballots from a 2016 congressional race that came under court challenge. Ms. Snipes called it a mistake but as a result, Mr. Scott’s office ordered state elections monitors be placed in the county ahead of last week’s voting.

Still, problems arose. Ms. Snipes’s office on Friday mixed 22 rejected provisional ballots with a batch of around 200 valid ones. She deemed it accidental but said the bad ballots, due to signature mismatches and other reasons, couldn’t be identified. Broward County, over the objections of Mr. Scott’s lawyers, included the ballots in its unofficial vote count presented to the state on Saturday. A judge also found Friday that Ms. Snipes violated state law by not turning over ballot information to Mr. Scott’s campaign immediately after the election. No statute addresses such a violation, so the path forward is unclear.  

That’s the irony of it all right there; Snipes was appointed to succeed someone who was removed for incompetence. Oh, and something we forgot to mention; thousands of ballots went missing during the recount. It was not enough to alter the outcome, both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) conceded, but ballots shouldn’t just vanish—especially in the two counties that were under the microscope and the ones that always are the problem children when something goes wrong in this state (via NYT):

Nearly 3,000 votes effectively disappeared during the machine recount of Florida’s midterm races, according to election records, calling into question whether officials relied on a flawed process to settle the outcome of three statewide contests.

With extremely narrow gaps separating candidates in the still-undeclared races for both governor and United States Senate, the results of the machine recount of all votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, posted by the Florida secretary of state’s office, showed 900 fewer votes than those reported in the original statewide tally.

The discrepancy was expected to grow by an additional 2,000 votes when updated numbers from Broward County, whose results initially were disqualified because they came in two minutes late, are added to the statewide results on Sunday.

None of the discrepancies would be enough to affect the outcome of the three statewide and three local elections that are still waiting for a winner to be called. But they come as at least three Florida counties — two of them Democratic strongholds whose results could be decisive — have reported problems counting their shares of the more than 8.1 million ballots cast across the state.

In one of the most serious cases, Palm Beach County found “dozens of precincts missing a significant number” of votes during the machine recount, according to the supervisor of elections, Susan Bucher, causing the county to conclude that entire boxes of ballots may not have been counted.

[…]

Elections experts say that although the difference in vote tallies were relatively small in proportion to the number of votes cast, they represent the loss of legally cast votes and highlight flaws in election law reforms put in place in the wake of the state’s disastrous 2000 presidential election vote count.

What a mess, but Gillum had only gained a single vote after the machine recount. Nelson was also 10,000-plus votes behind Scott when the hand recount portion was underway. Still, these are solid GOP wins, but also speak to the fact that Florida’s ballot-counting operations are still trash. Let’s see what Governor-elect Ron DeSantis does about it.