Elections miscount? Some candidates in Hialeah think there might have been

Some Hialeah candidates are questioning the results of Tuesday’s election, showing screenshots and other voting reports with conflicting numbers and different winners and losers.

The Miami-Dade County Department of Elections said results it reported Tuesday night are accurate. Conflicting numbers that appeared later were the result of a technical malfunction on the website and were not correct, a spokeswoman said.

Photos candidates or their supporters took of the elections website show that there would have been significant changes in all races if the alternate numbers were correct. The photos show that the results changed several times between midnight and 1 a.m. Wednesday, hours after the county said counting had been completed. For those later numbers, percentages and the number of votes did not add up correctly.

Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade’s deputy supervisor of elections, said the variances were the result of a function that was not working properly where users could sort the results on the election department’s website. In order to avoid confusion, Trutie said the department disabled the function.

The only municipality that complained about the issue was the city of Hialeah, Trutie said.

A representative from the vendor that manages the election results website, Scytl, wrote that the best solution was to turn off the ability to sort by votes. The representative said the inconsistency “did not impact or change the underlying data that was uploaded by the elections office.”

Trutie said the results were tabulated on an isolated network with no internet access, then checked again before the results were separately uploaded to the elections website.

“The results have never been compromised,” Trutie said. “They’ve always been accurate.”

Attorney Rick Yabor speaks Thursday during a press conference about conflicting Hialeah elections results posted at different times on the Miami-Dade elections website after Tuesday’s election. Sam Navarro Special for the Miami Herald

Christina White, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections, said the department has worked with the vendor since she started in 2006 and that no other issues have come up. She said the seemingly conflicting results were an isolated incident, but that she would take it into account while planning for the 2020 presidential race.

“Our voters should remain confident in the results,” White said. “At no time did the results of this election change in any way.”

Thirteen candidates were running for four seats on the council. The races for two seats in Group 2 and Group 3 are headed to a runoff on Nov. 19 because no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. Both of these seats had at least four candidates.

Carlos Hernández, the city’s mayor, wasn’t on the ballot, but he strongly supported a slate of candidates: Lourdes Lozano, a City Council member since 2011; Luis González, a former City Council member; Jackie García-Roves; and Oscar De la Rosa, the stepson of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo.

In Group 1, where elementary school teacher Mónica Pérez defeated Lozano, the screenshot results showed Lozano winning with a higher percentage of votes but Pérez having more total votes. Results from the elections department still show Pérez as the winner.

However, while the count from the elections department shows that Luis González, a former City Council member, and Jesus Tundidor, the former vice chair of the city’s zoning and planning board, won spots in a runoff vote for the Group 2 seat, post-midnight photos show different vote totals for everyone, with two other candidates winning spots in the runoff.

The late-night screenshots also show Garcia-Roves winning the Group 3 seat outright. But elections department results show Garcia-Roves in a runoff with community activist Milagros “Milly” Herrera.

On election night, county results showed Oscar De la Rosa defeated teacher Michael Anthony Horgan for the Group 4 seat, which had only two candidates. But a downloaded report shows De la Rosa losing to Horgan. Another photo shows De la Rosa much further ahead of Horgan than the official elections department results show.

Political strategist Sasha Tirador speaks during a press conference about possible anomalies in the computer system of the Miami Dade County Election Department Thursday in Hialeah. Sam Navarro Special for the Miami Herald

Sasha Tirador, who described herself as campaign manager for the mayor’s slate of candidates, said at a press conference Thursday she wanted a “satisfactory answer” and proof of who won the election.

“A simple explanation of it being a glitch is not enough for me as an American citizen,” she said.

De la Rosa strongly expressed to the Miami Herald that Tirador has never been his campaign consultant.

Hernández said he would consider asking the county for a recount if needed, but the swearing-in ceremony for De la Rosa and Pérez is Friday at noon.

“There are a lot of questions to be asked because these are elections,” Hernández said at the press conference.

Rick Yabor, the attorney for candidates endorsed by the mayor, said campaign officials are discussing whether to demand a hand recount.

“They’re asking us to rely on a computer system that has a problem,” Yabor said.

A man protests against the mayor of Hialeah, Carlos Hernandez, outside a press conference about possible anomalies in the computer system of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department. Sam Navarro Special for the Miami Herald

To contest the election, Florida statutes say a complaint must be filed with the clerk of the circuit court within 10 days after the results are officially certified Friday. The elections canvassing board, which reviews provisional ballots from every election, is scheduled to review provisional ballots from Hialeah Friday at 10 a.m.

White, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections, said it would be up to the judge to determine the validity of the complaint and the result of the case.

“We are a year away from the presidential election,” Tirador told the Miami Herald in a phone interview before the press conference. “Do we want Miami-Dade County to be the laughingstock of the world again?”