The recount deadline is looming. With just 24 hours to go, Broward Elections Department officials say they are not worried about making it in time. After getting off to a late start, the department now expects to finish early Thursday.
“We are looking to be completed sometime early in the morning,” said Joe D’Alessandro, director for election planning and development.
A hand count of ballots showing overvotes or undervotes is expected to begin at 6 a.m. Friday, D’Alessandro said. He did not give an estimate of total over-under ballots. The manual recount first has to be ordered by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
“We have not kept track of what goes into the over-under folders,” D’Alessandro said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Around 85 ballots have been damaged during the recount process causing them to be unreadable by the tabulation machines. Those ballots need to be duplicated by hand in order to be read by machines. Then the canvassing board will re-examine the ballots to make sure they’re correct before they’re recounted.
“We’re going to make sure the public sees every step,” said Judge Betsy Benson.
Most counties have already finished their machine recount, well in advance of tomorrow’s deadline. Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, is reviewing provisional ballots and conducting quality assurance tests to check its work. After mechanical issues Tuesday, Palm Beach County had to restart its recount.
Palm Beach elections officials have been saying for days that they are likely to miss the recount deadline. Pending the success of a lawsuit that seeks to extend the deadline, if a recount deadline is missed, the original tally of results will be used.
As of mid-morning Wednesday, Broward officials said the county was 55 percent to 60 percent complete with its recount process, according to D’Alessandro. All ballots had been sorted. Ballots cast during early voting had been counted, and the over-under ballots from that batch placed aside for a future manual recount. The machines were cleaned, and then department staff began to count mail ballots.
Officials say that puts the department on track to begin counting election day ballots by late Wednesday afternoon or early evening. The process is expected to finish Thursday morning.
Broward County officials say the department’s high-speed tabulators have the ability to process 68,000 ballots per hour with machines operating at optimum capacity, putting the county on track to finish its recount. D’alessandro said there have been no notable problems with the tabulation machines thus far.
The Florida Department of Elections has asked federal prosecutors to investigate the first possible violation of elections law reported this election — letters sent by the Florida Democratic Party to voters in four counties, including Broward, telling them they could fix issues with mail-in ballots by Nov. 8 instead of the actual deadline, Nov. 6. When asked, D’Alessandro said he was unaware of the issue. He reaffirmed that the county has not counted any ballots that arrived after 7 p.m. on election day.
Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is also under fire for her decision to include a batch of about 20 invalid ballots with around 200 valid ones. Tuesday evening on CNN, she contradicted her previous statements, saying the ballots had been separated and not counted.
Meanwhile, a handful of conservative protesters remain camped outside the supervisor of election’s office in Lauderhill, holding signs supporting Republican Ron DeSantis for governor. Linda Schainberg said she sets up camp outside the elections office every day at 6:30 a.m. because she is concerned with what she perceives as lack of transparency in the recount process and an effort by Democrats to “steal” the election.
“We don’t know what they’ve done with the ballots,” Schainberg worried as rumors continue to spread around the Internet of ballots turning up haphazardly at the Broward elections office.
There is no evidence of fraud or criminal activity in Broward, although a series of irregularities have many from both parties worrying about the integrity of the process.
A group of progressives from the New Florida Majority arrived to protest what they see as widespread voter suppression in the county due to stories of voters being turned away at the polls, mail ballots that were not sent on time or those counted due to being returned after the deadline.
“We are here to make sure every vote counts,” state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez shouted over the chants of counter protesters. He called the Thursday recount deadline “arbitrary” and said the process should take as long as necessary to ensure every voice from both parties is heard.
“Stop the steal,” conservative protesters chanted trying to drown him out.
Snipes had made no public appearances by 3 p.m. Wednesday.