Elections

Miami-Dade announces recount results. Democrats lose a teeny bit of ground.

A Miami-Dade staffer in the early  hours of the machine recount in Florida’s most populous county. After six days, the county easily met the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline to recount more than 800,000 ballots.
A Miami-Dade staffer in the early hours of the machine recount in Florida’s most populous county. After six days, the county easily met the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline to recount more than 800,000 ballots. Miami Herald

Miami-Dade recounted more than 800,000 ballots this week, and not much changed. Democrats carried the deep-blue county handily, and the recount shrunk that advantage by a tiny amount.

Gov. Rick Scott gained 60 votes over Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent currently behind statewide in the race for U.S. Senate. Statewide, the governor was leading Nelson by 12,562 votes in the results reported after Election Day. There were more than 800,000 ballots cast in that race in Miami-Dade.

Former congressman Ron DeSantis, a Republican, gained 22 votes in Miami-Dade over Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee. DeSantis was ahead by more than 33,500 votes after Election Day statewide. There were nearly 800,000 ballots cast in that race in Miami-Dade.

The third race subjected to a statewide machine recount, agriculture commissioner, was virtually unchanged after Miami-Dade reported its recount results Thursday after 2 p.m. Republican Matt Caldwell had a net gain of 28 votes over Democrat Nikki Fried. There were about 780,000 ballots cast in that race in Miami-Dade. Fried was ahead statewide by more than 5,000 votes after Election Day.

Miami-Dade’s machine-recount numbers were produced by a round-the-clock operation that started Saturday evening at the county’s Elections Department in Doral. About 300 workers re-scanned ballots that had been cast by mail and in person during early voting and on Election Day for more than a month in hundreds of polling locations.

“I am extraordinarily proud of my staff, who have been very dedicated to this process, working 24 hours for most of the duration,” said Christina White, the county’s appointed elections supervisor. “It was a monumental task, no doubt, reading more than 813,000 ballots all over again.”

Miami-Dade finished recounting its ballots Tuesday night, well ahead of the 3 p.m. state deadline. As sunset approached Thursday, it was readying staff for Phase Two: a hand recount of more than 40,000 problematic ballots the scanning machines were unable to tally.

“Our personnel here had more than 4 million pieces of paper” to handle, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in an afternoon press conference before taking a subtle dig at Broward and Palm Beach for their recount and reporting issues. “Christina, my hats off to you for running a great election, and for actually complying with state law.”

Palm Beach did not meet the state recount deadline, submitting its unofficial results a second time instead of providing Florida with updated election numbers. Broward initially announced it had made the deadline, then news came Thursday evening that it had submitted the new results two minutes late.

A federal judge on Thursday gave Florida voters until 5 p.m. Saturday to fix mail-in ballots that were rejected for signatures not matching a voter’s signature on file. A voter can fix it a signature problem by coming to the county’s Elections Department in Doral, or by submitting an affidavit provided by the county Elections Department. In Miami-Dade, there are 744 ballots with mismatched signatures. Gimenez said voters could call 305-499-8444 if they think they mailed a ballot with a signature problem.

Florida law requires a machine recount if a candidate is ahead by 0.5 percent or less once counties turn in their unofficial results five days after an election. Next up is a hand recount for races with a winning margin of 0.25 percent or less. That’s expected to only involve the Senate and agriculture race, with DeSantis likely to be ahead of Gillum by more than the 0.25 percent margin.

While the machine recount involved hundreds of thousands of ballots, the hand recount has a much narrower focus. Election judges and inspectors will only examine ballots machines deemed problematic — either because a voter didn’t vote in one of the races subject to the hand recount, or appeared to vote for more than one candidate. Those ballots are deemed “undervotes” and “overvotes,” and the county’s three-person canvassing board can vote to include them in the tally if it’s clear which candidate the voter wanted to select. (Such as by circling the candidate’s name, rather than filling in the oval that machines are programmed to read.)

There were 10,101 undervotes and overvotes recorded by Miami-Dade machines for the Senate race in results announced last Saturday. The contest for agriculture commissioner, a relatively obscure state post, had far more: 31,251. The governor race had 12,444.

For Senate and agriculture, almost all of the problematic ballots are undervotes: 92 percent for Senate and 99 percent for agriculture. For the governor race, it was more even, with 53 percent overvotes and 47 percent undervotes.

The county ended up with 93 fewer ballots than it did during the initial count that was all but over on Election Day, White said. “We were unable to recover those ballots,” she said. “Remember there was a huge factor in getting all of this together.”

Scott lost 197 votes from the 316,014 votes Miami-Dade announced for him after Election Day. Nelson lost 257. Gillum lost 228 votes in Miami-Dade’s recounted tally of the governor race. DeSantis lost 206 votes.

It’s not clear how Miami-Dade calculated the drop of 93 ballots between the unofficial results reported Nov. 10 and the recount results announced Thurday. The most votes cast for any race in Miami-Dade was for senate. When the counties reported unofficial results Nov. 10, Miami-Dade said 813,087 ballots were cast in that race. On Thursday, the county reported 810,823 ballots in the race — a drop of about 2,260. White said a big change involved how Miami-Dade records write-in votes.

During the recount, White said, the county only tabulating ballots for the five candidates who had registered with Florida as a write-in option. They received 29 votes, but there were more than 1,700 ballots listed as having write-in votes in the unofficial results posted over the weekend.

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