With unofficial vote totals from Tuesday’s election due to be handed into the state by noon Saturday, there was a new development in Florida’s post-election ballot counting. It was discovered Friday that more than a dozen rejected ballots had accidentally been mixed into nearly 200 valid ballots at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office.
The error further undermines the level of competency within the Broward elections office which has been in the spotlight for the a number of ballots it has discovered and counted in the days following the election. The added votes have signicantly changed the vote margins in three statewide races — U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — altering the percentages so much that it will likely trigger automatic recounts in all three contests.
The error was first reported Saturday by the Miami Herald.
The mistake — for which no one had a solution Friday night — was discovered after (Brenda) Snipes agreed to present 205 provisional ballots to the Broward County canvassing board for inspection. She hae initially intended to handle the ballots administratively, but agreed to present them to the canvassing board after Republican attorneys objected.
“We have found no clear authority controlling the situation faced by the board,” said Broward County Attorney Andrew Meyers.
At least 20 rejected ballots were erroneously placed in a stack of anonymous, valid ballots. The fact that they are anonymous means the rejected ballots can not be identified.
It’s the latest incident involving the canvassing of votes from the midterm election that has raised questions about the canvassing process for the election.
Florida’s local election officials have until noon on Saturday to submit their unofficial election results to state Division of Elections in Tallahassee.
Attorneys for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson who has led the efforts to trigger recounts in the three statewide races lost a legal battle Friday to move back the Saturday deadline. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle effectively denied Nelson’s request.
“This is how desperate Bill Nelson has become- he is attempting to commit voter fraud right out in public by asking judges to disregard legal deadlines and even count ballots which have already been considered and declared not legally cast,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. “… Bill Nelson and every single Floridian can know – we will not sit back and let anyone try to overrule the voters of Florida.”
Under state law, a machine recount is triggered if the margin of victory in a race is less than 0.5 percent, while a hand recount is triggered if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.
In the U.S. Senate race, Scott holds a 0.18 percent lead over Nelson. In the governor’s contest, Republican Ron DeSantis holds a lead of .44 percent over Democrat Andrew Gillum. Democrat Nikki Fried has a 0.04 percent over Republican Matt Caldwell.