November 15, 2018

Miami-Dade launches hand recount of 10,000 uncounted ballots in Scott vs. Nelson

After all the drama, Broward finishes recount with minutes to spare — but it won’t count


Via @HarrisAlexC and @MartinDVassolo

With just 15 minutes to go before Thursday’s deadline, Broward County finally finished recounting every vote.

At least, that’s what officials told reporters and the canvassing board at 2:45 p.m. In a surprise announcement at nearly 6 p.m., Broward’s director of elections planning, Joseph D’Alessandro, told the canvassing board the county actually turned in results to the state two minutes late. They won’t count officially.

Broward’s original count, turned in Nov. 10, will stand until the manual recount totals come in Sunday at noon. The manual recount will be added to the first unofficial count.

“Basically I just worked my ass off for nothing,” D’Alessandro said. “What caused it was my unfamiliarity with their website.”

D’Alessandro also told judges that a discrepancy between the first count and the recount — about 2,040 votes — was due to “a commingling of ballots.”

“We did not correctly handle the ballots,” he said. “We are going to look into that and see what took place.”

Brenda Snipes, the Broward supervisor of elections, said the next step is collecting the ballots with undervotes and overvotes in the the races for which the state has ordered a manual recount.

Because the margins were under .25 percent, three Broward races will be manually recounted: the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott; the commissioner of agriculture race between Nikki Fried and Matt Caldwell; and West Park Commission Seat One.

Broward plans to begin the manual recount Friday at 7 a.m. It will exclusively involve counting the undervotes and overvotes. The elections department was still completing a machine recount on some vote-by-mail ballots on Friday, according to D’Alessandro. Although the results won’t count, Snipes said any overvotes and undervotes found may be counted in the manual recount.

“I believe if they find under and over votes, we do have to use those,” Snipes said.

The gubernatorial race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was decided in the statewide recount. DeSantis won.

The Broward recount showed about 2,500 fewer votes in each race, with Democratic candidates losing about 1,300 votes each and Republicans losing about 600 votes. Scott lost 606 votes, while Nelson lost 1,385, leaving Scott with a net gain of 779 votes in the county. That led to accusations from top Scott surrogates, including senior campaign advisor Brad Todd on MSNBC, that Broward turned in the votes late to favor Nelson.

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Palm Beach didn’t make the Florida recount deadline. What happens next?


Even prayers weren’t enough for Palm Beach County to make Florida’s recount deadline.

After battling with decade-old ballot-counting machines only capable of recounting one race at a time, overheated equipment and ballot count discrepancies, the county failed to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday state deadline for submitting updated vote totals in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. Palm Beach, where nearly 600,000 ballots were cast, appeared to be one of only three counties to miss the deadline.

Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher had warned that elections staff would not be able to meet the deadline to recount votes cast in the governor and agriculture commissioner races and in a Florida House race, but said on Monday that she was confident her staff would complete the recount of votes in the Senate race.

That changed after ballot-counting machines overheated on Tuesday night and gave incorrect vote totals, forcing the county to recount about 175,000 early votes. By Wednesday afternoon the machines had been fixed, but Bucher said she was “in prayer mode to finish on time.” The new vote totals didn’t match the totals from before the machines malfunctioned, forcing Bucher’s information technology manager to hunt for several boxes of ballots that had already been recounted but whose tallies were lost when the equipment overheated.

“We gave a heroic effort and given probably three or four more hours we might have made the time,” Bucher said on Thursday afternoon.

Read the rest here.

Ron DeSantis is Florida’s next governor. Margin barely budges after machine recount.


Via @MahoneysTheName

TALLAHASSEE - Nine days after Election Day, and one machine recount later, it is all but official: Ron DeSantis is Florida’s next governor.

The results of the statewide machine recount, which rolled by the Thursday 3 p.m. deadline, solidified what most already knew, as DeSantis has already busied himself with transitioning to power and creating a new government.

In the governor’s race, it was an anticlimactic finish to the dramatic machine recount — plagued with technical issues and an avalanche of lawsuits — with almost no change in the margin between DeSantis and his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, since this weekend. Still, about 0.41 percentage points separate the two candidates, or just under 34,000 votes.

Just after the results were released, DeSantis sent a statement to reporters declaring victory — once again.

“I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” his statement read, striking a more conciliatory tone than the confrontational approach he used in the campaign.

He said the campaign must now end so it can “give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be.”

“And, to this end, I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state.”

Unlike the races for U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture, DeSantis’ margin of victory is not slim enough to proceed to a manual recount, which requires the race to be within one-fourth of a percentage point.

That means Thursday is the end of the road, and barring a lawsuit that demands a change in procedure, the official results of the governor’s race will likely be submitted by the counties on Sunday and will likely be officially certified on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

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Florida orders first statewide hand recounts ever, as legal fights continue


w/ @SteveBousquet

An unprecedented statewide hand recount is now under way in the Sunshine State, further extending a muddled, high stakes battle over every last vote in Florida’s crucial U.S. Senate race.

But, barring a legal challenge, the race for governor is over.

Following a five-day machine recount of the more than 8.3 million votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered hand recounts Thursday afternoon in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, and also the race for agriculture commissioner between Nicole “Nikki” Fried and Matt Caldwell. The race for governor, which also went through a machi

ne recount, was outside the margins that trigger a manual recount as new tallies came in, making Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis the governor-elect a full nine days after Democrat Andrew Gillum first conceded.

“I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Gillum, who explicitly revoked his election night concession Saturday as a machine recount began, did not re-concede Thursday, if there is such a thing.

But DeSantis said the campaign must end and “give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future.”

Detzner’s manual recount order gives canvassing boards in the state’s 67 counties three hectic days to pore over thousands of ballots that were rejected by machines because of “overvotes” — when a voter appears to have chosen more than one candidate in a race — or “undervotes,” in which a voter appears to have skipped a race altogether. With the help of state guidelines, the canvassing boards, which are allowed to enlist the help of volunteers, will try to determine how these voters intended to vote.

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Judge gives thousands of voters with rejected ballots time to fix signature problems


A federal judge has ordered Florida’s 67 elections supervisors to give thousands of voters whose ballots were rejected over mismatched signatures another two days to fix the problem and have their votes counted toward the results of the 2018 midterms.

Judge Mark Walker ruled early Thursday that the state’s elections offices have unconstitutionally applied the law that lays out the methods for voters to “cure” problematic signatures on absentee and provisional ballots. More than 3,700 such ballots were rejected this year after canvassing boards deemed that a signature on an envelope containing a mail-in or provisional ballot did not match the signature the state had on file for the voter.

The ruling gives new life to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s bid to keep his seat through on ongoing recount of Tuesday’s elections. The Senate campaign of Gov. Rick Scott, who is ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percent of the vote, called the decision “baseless” and said he would immediately file an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta.

Walker issued a 34-page order Thursday morning that said Florida’s “questionable practice” for curing ballot signature mismatches has “no standards, an illusory process to cure and no process to challenge the rejection,” and as a result does not pass constitutional muster.

“Florida law provides no opportunity for voters to challenge the determination of the canvassing board that their votes do not count,” Walker wrote. “Interestingly, Florida law does provide an opportunity for any voter or candidate to challenge a signature that was accepted and thus a vote that was counted.”

Nelson’s campaign and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida sued last week to invalidate the signature rejection process, leading to a 5-hour hearing Wednesday in Walker’s Tallahassee courtroom. The state presented information showing that 45 of Florida’s 67 counties have rejected a combined 3,688 mail-in ballots and 93 provisional ballots over mismatched signatures. Miami-Dade and Duval counties, two of the largest counties in the state, did not report numbers.

Nelson, a Democrat, unofficially trails Scott, a Republican, by 12,562 votes.

Scott’s administration and the National Republican Senatorial Committee argued against an injunction, and asserted that the lawsuit by Senate candidate Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida was barred because it wasn’t filed before election day. In announcing an appeal, Scott’s campaign said Nelson’s attorneys are making the opposite argument on signature mismatches in Arizona, in a case where the Democratic candidate was leading and the Republican was trailing.

Lauren Schenone, the Scott campaign’s press secretary, called the Nelson campaign’s legal arguments “blatant hypocrisy.”

“What this case comes down to,” Walker wrote, “is that without procedural safeguards, the use of signature matching is not reasonable and may lead to unconstitutional disenfranchisement.”

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November 14, 2018

Florida asks feds to investigate whether Democrats altered official election forms

Broward balots

Via @MahoneystheName

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of State, which oversees elections, has asked federal prosecutors to look into faulty forms sent to voters in at least four counties that may have caused them to miss the deadline for fixing problems with their mail-in ballots.

Emails released by the department show that the forms appear to have been sent by the state Democratic Party.

In a post-midterm season that is bubbling over with lawsuits and allegations of rampant voter fraud, this is the first instance in which state officials have flagged a possible violation of elections law.

The investigation was requested in a letter, sent Friday Nov. 9 from Bradley McVay, the department’s general counsel, to the U.S. attorneys for the northern, middle and southern districts of Florida. Despite the letter’s sent date, it was only released to news outlets Tuesday.

The issue: Voters in at least four counties — Broward, Citrus, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa — received “cure affidavits,” or forms used to fix defects in the mail-in ballots, such as a missing or mismatched signature on the original ballot. But those forms listed the wrong due date: Thursday, Nov. 8 instead of Tuesday, Nov. 6.

“Altering a form in a manner that provides the incorrect date for a voter to cure a defect ... imposes a burden on the voter significant enough to frustrate the voter’s ability to vote,” McVay wrote.

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Broward’s Snipes says invalid ballots ‘were never counted,’ contradicting her attorney


Via @MartinDVassolo

The embattled elections chief of Broward County, who has been dogged by questions over the competence of her department, appeared to contradict her attorney Tuesday in trying to tamp down reports that she included invalid ballots in vote totals transmitted to the state over the weekend.

Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections in Florida’s second-largest county, appeared on CNN just before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and told anchor Chris Cuomo that her office did not include a batch of 205 provisional ballots, which contained about 20 invalid ballots, in Broward’s unofficial vote totals sent Saturday to Tallahassee.

“They were never counted,” she said. “Those ballots had been separated, they’ve been isolated. They have not been counted to date.”

As her department was working to meet a Saturday afternoon deadline to transmit its unofficial vote tally to the state, Snipes had decided to sort through the 205 ballots administratively, removing the ballots themselves from the identifying envelopes in which they were stored.

When Republican attorneys objected, Snipes agreed to hand over the ballots to the county canvassing board, the three-person body tasked with reviewing absentee and provisional ballots, and overseeing the recount process. The canvassing board rejected about 20 of those ballots for violations like discrepancies between a voter’s signature on the envelope and the signature available on file with the state.

Because Snipes had already mixed the ballots, making them impossible to identify, the canvassing board was faced with the dilemma of accepting a few invalid ballots or rejecting the whole lot. Snipes recommended Saturday that the canvassing board accept all of the votes, arguing that it would be illogical to disenfranchise the majority of the voters for the sake of a few. The canvassing board never publicly stated what its decision would be, but attorneys for Democratic and Republican candidates said it was their understanding the entire batch had been included.

Amid a haze of uncertainty, Eugene Pettis, the attorney representing Snipes in the elections lawsuits to which she is a party, told reporters following the Saturday deadline to transmit Broward’s results that the canvassing board had in fact included the 205 provisional ballots in its count.

“The 205 previously opened provisional ballots, are they included in the numbers sent to the state or not?” asked a reporter.

“Yes. They are,” Pettis responded. “They have been included in that process.”

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Palm Beach County ‘in prayer mode’ to finish Senate recount by state deadline


Palm Beach County has managed to recount about 175,000 early votes affected by a machine malfunction, but the county is still far behind schedule to finish recounts in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

On Wednesday, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said her staff had worked through the night to recount early votes after ballot-counting machines overheated Tuesday and gave incorrect vote totals. The county brought in mechanics to repair the machines on Tuesday, and Bucher said the equipment had worked well overnight.

But Bucher said she wasn’t sure whether elections staff would be able to finish recounting votes cast in the Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline set by the state.

“We’re in prayer mode to finish on time,” she told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

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Rick Scott won't certify the results of his own election, lawyer says

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during an event in Hialeah, Fla. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Scott McIntyre 775192837

Gov. Rick Scott will not participate in the Elections Canvassing Commission on Tuesday, relieving him from the chance that he could certify — or not — the results of his U.S. Senate race.

Scott had been silent about his participation on the canvassing commission, a relatively obscure board that signs off on the results of each federal, state and multi-county election. The commission consists of Scott and two members of the Cabinet that he chooses.

On Wednesday, his lawyer told U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that Scott plans to recuse himself from the commission, just like he did in 2014, when Scott was running for re-election and also faced the chance of certifying the results of his own election.

Since the other members of the Cabinet were also on the ballot, he appointed then-state Senate President Don Gaetz, Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Kelli Stargel to fill in for them on the commission four years ago.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida said they want a "neutral third party" to fill in for Scott. The only other member of the Cabinet who could replace him — CFO Jimmy Patronis — is a Scott appointee who also is also on the ballot this year.