Florida Counties Race to Recount Several Races by Thursday

by | November 12, 2018

By Samantha J. Gross

Florida counties began the laborious and time-sensitive recount of votes cast last week to resolve the state's three close statewide races.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner was aware of recount problems in Broward County Sunday, but said through a spokeswoman that they were resolved.

On Saturday, the razor-thin margins in the races of U.S. Senate, agriculture commissioner and the governor's race prompted Detzner to order mandatory machine recounts in all three statewide races after all counties submitted their unofficial results by noon.

The state's 67 elections departments have just five days to recount more than 8.2 million combined ballots cast over an entire month leading up to Tuesday's midterms.

Broward County was supposed to start its recount at 7 a.m. Sunday, cranking out recounts in 24-hour shifts from its Lauderhill facility. But glitches with the machines delayed the start by four hours.

The county also has to recount four local elections, will run more than 700,000 ballots through its machines.

To make the Thursday deadline, the county has to count about 6,874 ballots an hour, so that delay puts Broward about 25,000 ballots behind that pace.

Gov. Rick Scott's attorney, Tim Cerio, said he didn't know what caused Broward County's delay Sunday morning, but that two more machines were being sent to the office from Orlando.

In Miami-Dade, the state's most populated county, the recount began early Saturday evening, as workers began to load paper ballots into scanning machines for a tabulation that will likely take days.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, home to Tampa and St. Petersburg, began their recounts at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said Sunday that he had no doubt his office would meet Thursday's deadline for completing the machine recount of more than 520,000 ballots. Nor did he see the likelihood that the results would shift much.

In Palm Beach County, the election supervisor said Saturday that the Thursday deadline would be "impossible" to meet.

Supervisor Susan Bucher started the recount process at 5 p.m. Saturday, the Palm Beach Post reported, but said that even bringing in extra county workers couldn't solve the problem.

"I will tell you that the secretary and the legislature and the governor have been extremely aware that with the election equipment we have, the potential of conducting all of these is impossible," Bucher told the Post. "We have asked the secretary if there was any consideration to extend the deadline and he said 'no.' "

The deadlines for submitting the results of the recount are laid out in Florida law, which  does not give the secretary of state the authority to grant extensions. Florida law states that if a county does not submit its results by the deadline, the results on file at that time take their place.

The results from machine recounts across the state must be finished by 3 p.m. Thursday for the revised totals to be counted as official. On Friday, overseas and military ballots, which traditionally trend Republican, will be counted.

If the threshold after this second round drops below 0.25 percent, the state can order a manual recount for federal and state races. A manual recount means the canvassing boards count each overvote and undervote by hand. An overvote means the voter made more choices than allowed on their ballot. An undervote means the voter made no choice or fewer than the number of allowable choices on the ballot.

(Caitlin Ostroff and Lawrence Mower contributed to this report.)

(c)2018 Miami Herald