Broward County

Broward has started recounting its ballots. How can it make the Thursday deadline?

Broward County starts machine recount of election ballots

Broward County started the actual machine recount of election ballots Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10:40 a.m.
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Broward County started the actual machine recount of election ballots Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10:40 a.m.

Broward County has officially started the actual vote recount ordered by the state, but election officials still aren’t done sorting out ballots.

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.”

Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.

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. “The night crew will do those because there’s much less distractions during the night than there are during the day. We’ll get those taken care of.”

The batch of vote-by-mail ballots will be left in the tabulation room overnight. The morning crew will begin recounting those ballots around 7 a.m., D’Alessandro said.

Recounted vote tallies will not appear online until Broward turns them in on Thursday, he added.

How is this possible when Miami-Dade has been working around the clock since Saturday and is still not done?

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First of all, Broward started the recount window with fewer votes to count than Miami-Dade did. Miami-Dade was home to about one out of every 10 votes cast in Florida for the 2018 general election, for a total of 813,087 ballots to count again. That’s more than any other county in Florida. Broward has the second largest number, 714,859.

Another factor in its favor: Broward has faster high-speed counting machines than Miami-Dade does, according to Miami-Dade officials familiar with both models.

Broward is using 12 of these high-speed counting machines to mow through the 700,000-plus ballots.

And staffers will work 12-hour shifts around the clock. For the August primary, Broward only had five high-speed machines. Snipes decided to buy three more (at $115,000 a pop) to beef up for Election Day, and another four are on loan from the manufacturer.

Each of those 12 machines can count 5,000 ballots an hour, Bellis said, which works out to 60,000 ballots an hour total. Based on that math, Broward could chew through its nearly 720,000 votes in about 12 hours. That doesn’t include any additional sorting still to be done.