Incompetence abounds as Florida recount goes to 2nd round

UPDATE 2 — 11/19, 3:41 p.m. EST: Broward County elections supervisor, Brenda Snipes, submitted a letter of resignation to outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday, effective Jan. 4, 2019. 

Gov.-elect Rick DeSantis is expected to name a replacement for Snipes when he takes office Jan. 8.

 

UPDATE — 11/18, 2:16 p.m EST: Florida election officials announced Sunday Republican Rick Scott defeated incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in the state’s U.S. Senate election by 10,033 votes, or .12 percent.

 

The Florida election saga is a lot to unpack but at the end of the day it’s exactly what it seems: run-of-the-mill politics and everything that comes with it, including lawyers, parties, campaigns and constitutional officers.  Democratic and Republican candidates are wrangling for votes by any means necessary.

In 2000, the presidential election was decided by 537 votes in the same region of the same state, South Florida, specifically Broward County.

When it comes to embarrassing vote counting issues such as illegal handling of ballots and failure to update counts in violation of state law, none does it like Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Both again find themselves at the epicenter of a Florida election debacle. Sen. Marco Rubio jumped into the election crisis writing in an op-ed Thursday:

“Our state’s election laws are built on our experience with close elections. In 65 of our state’s 67 counties, these laws were followed, and they worked. But two counties are guilty of gross incompetence, opening the way for partisan lawyers to try and override our state’s election laws.”

Rubio also appeared on Fox News with Sean Hannity earlier in the week to run-down the litany of vote counting errors made by Florida election officials.

Initially three races were set for a recount: The gubernatorial election featuring Congressman Ron DeSantis, a staunch ally of President Trump, who leads Barack Obama-backed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; the U.S. Senate race with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson trailing Gov. Rick Scott; and the election for state agriculture commissioner, which flipped to Democratic candidate Nikki Fried after Broward and Palm Beach counties were counted.

Once the first round of dust settled, all three races fell within the margin of a mandatory recount. Florida law requires an electronic recount when two candidates are separated by a vote margin or .5 percent of less.  A .25 percent or less margin after the machine recount triggers a hand count of ballots with under and overvotes.

After the first recount was completed Thursday, both the Senate and agriculture commission races will proceed to a manual recount, while DeSantis has achieved a wide enough vote margin to claim victory over Gillum.

Meanwhile, lawyers started flying to South Florida from Washington, D.C., and court filings started to pile up. The Scott campaign is suing Broward County due to Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes for failure to provide public information concerning votes still to be tallied after Election Day, a violation of Florida’s “sunshine” laws.

The Broward County election office also failed to follow state law requiring vote tally updates every 45 minutes, instead uploading tens of thousands of ballots over night which threw the elections into recount territory.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, Scott’s campaign filed a lawsuit to allow Broward recount totals which gave the GOP candidate a net of 779 votes. The county submitted results two minutes late despite publicly finishing the recount prior to the 3 p.m. EST deadline.

The Nelson campaign has also filed a series of lawsuits, most of which have been unsuccessful, including an attempt to block canvasing boards from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots in order to give canvassers more leeway in determining voter intent.  On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker rejected that request.

Earlier in the week, the same federal court in Tallahassee ruled against Nelson’s attempt to lift mandated deadlines for reporting recounts on the basis they are “arbitrary” and place a “burden . . . on the right to vote.”

Nelson was successful in allowing more than an estimated 5,000 voters who were “belatedly notified” to have submitted a ballot with a non-matching signature an opportunity to fix and resubmit by 5 p.m. on Saturday.  Palm Beach County has approximately twice as many of these ballots as any other in the state.

As of this writing, here is what readers need to know: Under and overvotes — ballots in which a tally wasn’t recorded in one or more individual races — in the agriculture commissioner and U.S. Senate elections are currently being recounted by hand. Both recounts will end Sunday at noon, and by Tuesday, barring any legal maneuver, Florida will announce the official winners.

Of note, less than 60,000 ballots will be manually recounted, including more than 36,000 in Broward and Palm Beach counties combined.

Make no mistake, these legal actions are not only about 2018, but 2020 as well.  Remember this, all roads to the presidency go through the always entertaining, never boring, electorally challenged back roads of the Sunshine State.

 

[Washington Examiner] [Florida Politics] [Washington Post] [Naples Daily News] [CNN] [NPR] [Reuters] [Sun Sentinel] [Photo courtesy AP/Joe Skipper via Hawaii News Now]