A line of hundreds of volunteers snaked through the parking lot behind the Broward Elections Office befriend dawn, chattering and waiting to pass through security. Overhead, huge American and Trump 2020 flags hung from heavy machinery.
Once inside, where they’ll stay until 8 p.m., they relinquished their food, water, phones and other possessions inside an unsecured room. They donned name tags and lanyards with their party affiliation and took a seat at one of the hundred plastic folding tables set up in the building’s warehouse.
Each table holds at least one Republican representative, one Democratic representative and a two-person volunteer counting team. For the next three days, they’ll sort though tens of thousands of ballots with under and over votes.
They’ll categorize ballots into four boxes: clear indication blue (for Democratic votes), clear indication red (for Republican votes), canvassing and no vote, not counted.
Any contested ballots will be judged by the canvassing board.
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 plan — after a late night shock that the week’s machine recount results came too late and don’t actually count — was to get started at 7 a.m. By that hour it was apparent the hundreds of volunteers, lawyers and staffers was taking longer than expected to settle.
Training began at 7:30 a.m., and the manual recount officially kicked off at 8 a.m. Broward officials haven’t said how many over and under votes will be tallied in the next few days, but according to o state numbers Broward appears to have about 31,000 under and overvotes in the senate race. Friday is dedicated to counting votes in the contested senate race between Nelson and Scott.
Saturday, volunteers will sort ballots for the Commissioner of Agriculture race between Fried and Caldwell.
René Harrod, an attorney for the canvassing board, walked everyone through the rules for judging ballots.
She went over stray marks, circling parties instead of candidates and marks that don’t fully fill in the bubble.
“It can go side to side, it can go diagonally. It’s a valid vote so long as it does not intersect any other oval,” she said.
The rule of the day is consistency. Everyone is looking for a vote that aligns with how the voter selected all other candidates on the ballot.
“No one should have a pen, pencil, crayon, marker,” Harrod said.
Miami-Dade, meanwhile, began its manual count of about 10,000 votes at 10 p.m. Thursday and worked overnight.
Palm Beach county, which, like Broward, didn’t finish the machine recount on time, plans to begin at 11 a.m. Friday.