Why Broward County was late with its vote count on Election Day

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes
Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes mhalper@miamiherald.com

As election results poured in from around Florida Tuesday night, revealing at times a close race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, one key piece of data was missing: election-day voting results in Broward County.

Results from Florida’s bluest county, and its 1.2 million voters, were being closely watched by TV networks, newspapers, campaigns and voters around the nation.

“Oh man, anyone who lived through Bush/Gore totally constricts every sphincter when Broward County, Florida and slow election results are in the same sentence!” wrote one person on Facebook on election night.

Other observers were more conspiratorial, declaring that Broward must be trying to rig the election.

But the sluggish results were a result of nothing sinister. Just the slower process Broward uses to report results.

County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes initially scoffed when asked by reporters as the night went on to explain why Broward lagged behind other counties in posting results.

“We are not comparing to other counties,” she told reporters at her election night headquarters in Lauderhill.

But Snipes said she already has plans in the works for technology upgrades that should speed up the process in the future — a step Miami-Dade took in 2015.

Here’s a timeline of when results posted on election night:

Shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m., Broward posted results from early voting and absentee ballots.

The next batch of results didn’t post for more than an hour. At about 8:30 p.m., the county posted the first results from Election Day voting — 91 of 577 precincts.

Then, another wait.

At about 8:54 p.m., the county showed 278 out of 577 precincts. At about 9:17 p.m. the website showed results of 430 precincts. At 10 p.m. Broward had results from 564.

The results from final precincts posted at 10:44 p.m.

Even before the final tallies rolled in, it was clear that Trump had won Florida regardless of the Election Day votes in Broward.

But Snipes still faced questions about why her county lagged behind.

Here’s how results from Election Day precinct voting get posted in Broward: An elections worker at most of the 577 precincts drives six to eight miles to one of 16 regional sites to deliver flash drives with voting results. From those regional sites the results are sent electronically to the elections website. (The process works differently for some of the locations dubbed “the big 15” — locations that have multiple precincts. Those results are driven directly to the office in Lauderhill.)

Snipes said that the county commission approved her budget request for equipment to send results directly from the precincts, eliminating the time spent driving from precincts to regional sites. Snipes wants that system in place for the 2018 election, which will include the governor’s race, a U.S. Senate race and other statewide races.

Snipes said she didn’t know by how many minutes the new equipment will speed up the process.

“It’s hard to predict — that will be first time we’ve done it,” she said. “It’s designed to speed up the process, to make everything happen right there at the polling place.”

Miami-Dade previously used a system similar to Broward but changed its procedure in 2015. Now the county sends results from precincts directly to elections headquarters.

That paid off on Tuesday night.

Miami-Dade had posted about 90 percent of the precincts by 8:30 p.m. — around the time that Broward was just starting to post Election Day results. Both counties had around the same number of Election Day ballots cast.

Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties all send their precinct results electronically and posted more quickly than Broward.

“We had our results in all but one precinct by 9 p.m., the last one at 9:30,” said Gerri Kramer, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said it was embarrassing that Broward posted results so late compared to other counties. He said relatives in other states were texting him, asking him what was going on with his home county. Commentators on national TV noted during the night that the nation was awaiting results from Broward.

When “Broward” is mentioned on national TV on Election Day, LaMarca lamented, “It’s never associated with something fantastic or positive.”

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.