How does an election recount work?
We can hear the late-night jokes.
Flori-DUH is in the middle of a vote-count controversy — again. Snail-paced vote counting, first focused in Broward and Palm Beach counties, has rippled across the state giving rise to the idea that maybe a blue wave did take place, we just didn’t count right. Or that Democrats are just sore losers.
But there’s nothing funny about eroding people’s already diminished trust that their votes will count or that the ballot design was befuddling. There’s nothing remotely amusing about still-uncounted ballots or reports that, on Thursday, a Broward County teacher found a locked box marked “provisional ballot box” at a high school that served as a polling site. The Elections Department later said there was nothing but supplies in the box. Still, this does not inspire confidence.
As of Thursday night, the contested races included that for U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who declared victory Tuesday, and agriculture commissioner candidate Nicole “Nikki” Fried, a Democrat, and Republican Matt Caldwell. In addition, the gap between gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and presumed winner Ron DeSantis also qualifies for a recount.
Obviously, every legitimate Florida vote must be tallied, regardless of time, effort or expense. The integrity of these elections, getting it right and following the law matter most of all.
Miami Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was livid on Thursday that Republican victories suddenly were unresolved. He pointed the finger at Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, criticizing her on Twitter:
“A U.S. Senate seat & a statewide cabinet officer are now potentially in the hands of an elections supervisor with a history of incompetence & of blatant violations of state & federal laws,” Rubio tweeted.
As reported in the Herald, by 8 p.m. Thursday, “Broward County was the only one of the state’s 67 counties that had not reported to the state that it had completed its tabulation of early votes.
“Early voting ended Sunday in Broward.”
Rubio’s criticism of Snipes is on point.
Scott has filed suit against Snipes claiming she has violated public records laws by not complying with his campaign’s requests for voter and ballot information and, taking his partisan hyperbole a step too far, said, “Left-wing activists have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere,” an evidence-free allegation, unfortunately.
Indeed, Snipes’ office has been sued before, her tenure so troubled that it’s baffling why Broward voters have not shown her the door.
This is where Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner must assure candidates and voters alike that these races will be resolved the right way. Detzner is a Scott appointee, so he, of all people, must ensure a meticulously nonpartisan process. Luckily, he has state law to guide him.
The counties must report their unofficial totals on Saturday. If the margin is less than 0.5 percent in a race, Detzner is required to order a statewide machine recount, to be completed by Nov. 15. If that first recount ends in a margin of less than 0.25 percent, Detzner must order manual recounts in those contests.
Cumbersome and stress-inducing, perhaps, but, fortunately, it’s the law.