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As Scott-Nelson Margin Shrinks and Fury Surges, Experts Say Process Is Working

| November 9, 2018

Praying, and suing. (© FlaglerLive)

Praying, and suing. (© FlaglerLive)

The lawsuits piled up and the finger-pointing escalated Friday as Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s slim lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson continued to shrink.


While some elections supervisors tallied remaining votes, a recount appeared almost certain in the Senate race, which Scott led by 56,000 votes on election night. The Republican’s advantage dwindled to about 15,000 votes — out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast statewide — by Friday, well within the 0.5 percent margin requiring a machine recount.

Watching his lead shrink, Scott accused elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties of “incompetence” and fraud.

But elections experts say the process is working exactly how it is designed under a state law that gives county supervisors until noon Saturday to submit their preliminary, unofficial results to the Florida Division of Elections.

“The final results are not election night,” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told The News Service of Florida on Friday. “The final results are due from Florida 12 days after the election.”

The supervisor spoke to reporters shortly before a 1 p.m. meeting of the county canvassing board, comprised of a judge, a county commissioner and Earley. Like other canvassing boards, the panel makes decisions about mail-in ballots and provisional ballots and plays a significant role in hand recounts.

Voters in Florida can cast ballots in a variety of ways. They can vote by mail, cast ballots in person during an early-voting period in the two weeks before the election, or they can vote on Election Day. Voters whose eligibility is in question or whose information cannot be verified on Election Day can cast “provisional” ballots, which have to be scrutinized by local officials and may also need to be validated by county canvassing boards.

After the unofficial results are submitted to Tallahassee by mid-day Saturday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will determine whether any of the races fall within the 0.5 percent margin requiring a machine recount.

In a machine recount, all of the ballots are fed through voting machines. Ballots with “undervotes” or “overvotes” — in which voters may have skipped a race or made extra marks in races, causing their ballots to be rejected by the machines — are set aside, or “outstacked.”

Under state law, machine-recount results are due to the state by 3 p.m. on the ninth day following the general election, which is Thursday. Those are considered the “second unofficial results” of the election.

If Detzner determines that any of the races are within a 0.25 percent margin, he must order a manual, or hand, recount.

In a manual recount, county canvassing boards examine the “outstacked” ballots.

“The whole purpose of this is to look for voter intent. Just because a machine doesn’t see a vote doesn’t mean that human eyes won’t see a vote,” Earley said.

The results from the manual recounts, called “official returns,” must be provided to the state no later than noon on Nov. 18 — 12 days after the election.

Two days later, the state Elections Canvassing Commission, comprised of Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet, will meet at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee to certify the official election results.

Earley’s long-serving predecessor, Ion Sancho, said Florida’s law anticipates that it takes time for elections supervisors to finalize their vote tallies, hence the 12-day window before the results are finalized.

Ballots can be damaged in the mail or at home by voters before being sent to the elections office. Elections workers have to replicate the damaged ballots, so they can be read by voting machines, which then have to be examined by county canvassing boards, according to Sancho.

That’s a painstaking, time-consuming process, he said.

“Votes are not being manufactured out of nowhere. This is a process that a Republican legislature, a Republican governor and a Republican secretary of state have developed since 2002,” Sancho, who served as Leon County elections supervisor for nearly three decades before retiring two years ago, told the News Service.

Much of the current consternation about Florida’s election is focused on Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, whose office was still processing ballots Friday. The results of those ballots were largely responsible for narrowing the gap between Scott and Nelson, whose lawyer, Marc Elias, predicted that the margin in the race would continue to evaporate as more provisional ballots are tabulated.

According to Snipes’ website, her office had not completed counting ballots that were cast during the early-voting period, which ended Sunday. But she has not said how many ballots remain outstanding, and she’s facing lawsuits from Scott and Matt Caldwell, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner who saw his 4,000-vote election-night lead reversed. By Friday afternoon, Caldwell’s opponent, Democrat Nikki Fried, held a 3,000-vote advantage.

“Certainly, there are hiccups here and there. It’s a very complicated process. When I start talking about how recounts work, or just tabulation in general, I always see people’s eyes roll into the back of their heads. But it’s those details that you’ve got to get right. Sometimes it takes time. I don’t think that anything nefarious is happening down south, but it may have been organized better,” Earley said.

Late Thursday evening, Scott told reporters he asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the elections offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties. FDLE is working with Detzner’s office and “will investigate any allegations of criminal activity or fraud,” agency spokeswoman Gretl Plesinger said in an email Friday afternoon.

“We do not have an active investigation at this point,” she said.

Broward voters have the power to do something about it if they are unhappy about their elected supervisor, Sancho said.

“The Broward County supervisor of elections, at age 72, was re-elected to another four-year term. The voters made that decision. They have to live with it. Votes matter. If people want the elections procedure to work better, then perhaps they should really look at the candidates who are running for supervisor,” he said.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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31 Responses for “As Scott-Nelson Margin Shrinks and Fury Surges, Experts Say Process Is Working”

  1. Really says:

    Epicenter of suffrage incompetence

  2. JPK says:

    It appears that it is deja vu all over again: history repeats itself: Bush v Gore 2000.

    I am concerned that Governor Scott has asked the State Police to begin an investigation and that the state Elections Canvassing Commission is comprised of Governor Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet. Seems like a chapter from the Brian Kemp play-book of how to run a “fair” election.

    Full disclosure. I hope Senator Nelson prevails. I am just tired of Governor Scott’s and the Republican Party’s manta of more, more, more for me, me, me, and less, less, less for you, you, you.

    Before I am accused of being a George Soros paid, lefty, communist pinko, in reality I am a 71 year old white male, retired professional from a smallish Mid-Western city, and a disabled vet.

    In any event, I hope that the individual ultimately determined to be the loser of the Nelson v Scott race is as gracious as Al Gore was.

  3. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    Which process is that ? The usual “voter fraud” Broward County has become famous for.

  4. Richard says:

    There is NO question that the election officials in both Palm and Broward Counties have no clue how to run an independent and reputable election when the other Florida counties have no problems even while dealing with disasters in some of those counties. I wonder what the hell they would do if a Cat 5 tornado had ripped through their counties prior to the election, delay the election? These people need to go back to their senior assisted living homes and count twiddly sticks. Anyone with even a smidgen of common sense can see right through their tactics. If we can’t win we’ll steal cheat and lie.

    I have no problems with a recount as the law provides for it BUT it should be done by an independent group of people NOT the same people who counted them previously. That’s what banks do when they have to recount their balance sheets.

    I agree with those that say the 5 Billion Dollars spent on this election would have been better spent on improving the integrity of the voting process throughout the country. We have the smarts and the brains lets USE them!

  5. A says:

    Thank you, JPK!

  6. Lester Shaw says:

    EACH and EVERY “legitimate” vote should be counted! Why is it that “Military” and other mail in votes, along with “early votes” are not counted (and verified if necessary) when they are first received? Counting votes is not brain surgery. Here again, when trying to replace human beings with “cheaper” machines, great care must be taken to insure correct and accurate processing. COMPLETE and Accurate vote counting is “VITAL”!!!

    Voters are human beings and they make mistakes. There should be a swift, smooth and credible process that is carried out for validating and accurately counting EVERY vote!

  7. The Truth says:

    It is apparent that all votes need to be counted in Florida, that is what democracy means. Just because all votes haven’t been counted does not mean anyone or any party is cheating.
    Why, shouldn’t all votes be counted, but Scott and Trump are crying poor us and feel that is cheating. No, what is cheating is not allowing all votes to be counted.
    Trump and Scott are cheaters so it is obvious they feel others are cheaters too, not the case.

  8. CG says:

    If Scott was to lose the election, I’d be scared we could have a “thoughts and prayers” moment. When I look at his face he has the appearance of a crazed lunatic. Perhaps I should take solace in his mothers words that he was “a good boy” I do have my doubts however. This sure is a great country we live in where racists and crooks get elected. Usually a military connection too except for trump.

  9. Bill says:

    Yes this process is working but could go a lot quicker if everyone would look the other way and let the Ds in charge of Brevard “FIND” the votes needed to ensure democrats the victory.

  10. Really says:

    Def. Of insanity keep Electing the same people to run elections go figure smh

  11. Mark101 says:

    Awesome, Scott can’t buy this one.

  12. Sherry says:

    There are ZERO “Facts” that indicate anything fraudulent with our election vote count in Florida. . . only the usual conspiracy theories from the trump/FOX cult. ALL verified votes should be counted.

  13. Layla says:

    Why is it that Republicans must vote by Election Day but Democrat ballots are counted until they win? Is there not a deadline for these ballots and why are they being found stuffed into closets? Somebody needs to be prosecuted here.

  14. Mark says:

    The process is working? Why is it when all the votes are finally counted they are always in the democrats favor? Do democrats not know how to vote properly?

  15. Richard says:

    If these two counties can’t get their act together plus they continue to break the voting laws of Florida, then all of the votes posted from these two counties should be disqualified. That would light a fire under their asses to change the way they manage the voting process in their counties.

  16. Born and Raised Here says:

    We need to start voting on line, and do away with polling places. To many people have there hands on my ballot.

  17. Coyote says:

    “Yes this process is working but could go a lot quicker if everyone would look the other way and let the Ds in charge of Brevard “FIND” the votes needed to ensure democrats the victory.”

    Or, conversely, it would be done and over if everyone would just look the other way and let the R’s have the election by ignoring the laws, regulations, and requirements of the State to count EVERY vote when the gap is this small.

    Maybe The Donald will sign an executive order that whenever an election vote count might be embarrassing to him and his cult, it can be ignored.

    Or, The Donald can threaten to withhold Federal funds from Florida if we don’t get our election process working ‘competently’ (i.e. the way HE wants it to go). Oh Wait, that one will only happen if the final count(s) go against his Chosen Stooges.

    In any case, however it ends up, it’s good to see yet MORE proof that Rick the Dick and Ronnie are both so deep into Trumps hip pockets that they can see his pants cuff. They are both playing right out of The Donalds playbook – making accusations and claims of illegalities with absolutely ZERO evidence, and refusing to answer any questions regarding disclosing any proofs of their accusations.

  18. woody says:

    Either way everybody loses.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Both Broward and Palm Beach Supervisors of Elections announced tonight they cannot possibly have the re-count done by the dateline on Thursday.

    Secretary of State advises there can be no extensions on the deadline.

    The Lawyers are going to get rich of this.

  20. Shark says:

    Scott – was charged with the biggest medicaid fraud in history -( 1 Billion Dollars) and the morons in Florida still voted for him!!!

  21. flagler1 says:

    we pay supervisors of elections big bucks to keep this kind of crap from happening.

  22. Nancy N. says:

    To the commenter who said we should start voting online because “too many people have their hands on my ballot”…how would you like the Chinese, Russians, and North Koreans (to name a few) to have their hands on your ballot? Because that is what will happen if we go to online voting. Those countries’ intelligence services have already been trying to break into our election databases. (Don’t take my word for it, read the CIA report.) We can’t keep criminal hackers from breaking into databases and stealing personal data and even money…do you really think we could stop intelligence services of the world’s most technologically advanced (and nefarious) countries from breaking into elections software and altering an election?

  23. Sherry says:

    Nancy N. a truly excellent point! If we had our voting “on-line” .. . the Russians and China would OWN us!

    Here is what the judge says about Scotts desire for an injunction and the wild accusations of fraud:

    https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/416262-scotts-lawsuit-against-broward-county-denied

  24. gmath55 says:

    There are ZERO “Facts” that indicate anything fraudulent with our election vote count in Florida. . . only the usual conspiracy theories from the trump/FOX cult. ALL verified votes should be counted.

    Yes, but Broward elections department has a history of violating the law. Rubio’s tweet linked to a lawsuit in which a judge found Snipes prematurely unlawfully destroyed ballots. In the other case Rubio cited, the judge issued an injunction preventing Snipes from opening mail-in ballots before the canvassing board convened.

    https://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2018/nov/12/marco-rubio/marco-rubio-says-broward-elections-office-has-hist/

  25. Sherry says:

    There is a huge difference between incompetence and fraud! Regarding THIS election. . . here is the latest:

    http://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/11/12/fdle-silent-as-rick-scott-and-pam-bondi-seek-voter-fraud-investigation/

    Why didn’t Scott take care of any problems with Snipes years ago? Incompetence in the governor’s office per chance?

  26. Sherry says:

    We should hold ALL elected officials to the highest legal and ethical standards though, right? Oh My. . . should we begin with the level of truth telling at the White House? . . . thought not. . . hypocrites!

  27. Sherry Epley says:

    Still no fraud found for this election in Florida. The latest from the AP. . . 46 minutes ago:

    https://www.apnews.com/71472c46f771431aa5c038db78a6c78f

  28. Pogo says:

    @Sherry, et al

    Well said – once again Floriduh, run by Republicans, is the turd in the nation’s punchbowl.

  29. Outsider says:

    Pogo, maybe you missed the fact that the two counties that constantly have problems with elections are run by Democrats. The other 65 counties didn’t seem to have a problem complying with the law. And Sherry, there may have been no “fraud” found, but there has been non-compliance with the law in Broward County. It would be really tough to prove fraud if the elections office was involved. I’m sure it at least tweaks your curiosity that a box of ballots was discovered unattended in a storage room at a school, supposedly by a teacher. Another box of ballots was discovered in a rental car in Dade County. No chain of custody issues there. All of these problems could be solved with a national voter ID system, like Mexico has. Changes of address, deaths and other things that are too cumbersome for Ms. Sikes and her ilk to keep track of would be taken care of. Of course, we know Democrats have no interest in keeping ineligible voters from casting ballots and they fight any effort to ensure the integrity of elections.

  30. Pogo says:

    @Facts trump trumpholes

    Voting Problems 2018

    From purges to voter intimidation to machine snafus, voting issues have proliferated this cycle. Here, a Brennan Center roundup.

    Rebecca Ayala

    “…Especially high purge rates in Southern States: Between 2016 and 2018, the Brennan Center found Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida removed an unusually high number of names from their voter rolls. Both Georgia and North Carolina removed over 10 percent of registrations from their voter lists, and Florida removed more than 7 percent. Since 2015, Alabama election officials purged 658,000 voters, according to the state’s chief election official; this number is dramatic given that the state had only 3.3 million registered voters in 2016…”
    https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/voting-problems-2018

    Purged!
    Brennan Center for Justice

    “From the introduction – The flawed purges of people with felony convictions from Florida’s voter rolls during the 2000 and 2004 elections are now well known. In 2000, thousands of legal voters were purged from Florida’s voter rolls. One list sent to Florida officials erroneously included the names of 8,000 Florida residents who had committed misdemeanors—not felonies—in Texas. In 2004, despite Florida’s sizable Hispanic population, the state’s purge list contained only 61 Hispanic surnames, and also mistakenly included thousands who had had their voting rights restored. After these and other errors were publicized, the state withdrew its felon purge list. But under Florida law, county election officials may still purge voters based on their own, locally generated lists…”
    https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/purged

    florida voter purge 2000
    https://www.google.com/search?-b-1&q=florida+voter+purge+2000&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHlfDq-tPeAhUPRKwKHZV5BwQQ1QIIbCgA&biw=1920&bih=928

    florida voter purge 2004
    https://www.google.com/search?biw=1920&bih=928&ei=cyDsW-q5IYPatQXfzpm4DQ&q=florida+voter+purge+2004&oq=florida+voter+purge+2004&gs_l=psy-ab.3…139857.141071..143544…0.0..0.93.171.2……0….1..gws-wiz…….0j0i71j0i22i30.GmL2mW42ZyQ

    Vote Blue as if your life, health, and future depend upon it. They do.

  31. Sherry says:

    GEEZ! More conspiracy theories. . . the ballot boxes were filled with office supplies:

    Elections officials say boxes labeled with the words “provisional ballots” that have shown up around Broward County contain offices supplies used on Election Day and are not used to collect actual filled-out ballots.

    Broward supervisor of elections attorney Eugene Pettis says the boxes contain office supplies and a red envelope for polling places to use for any provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are cast when someone votes without identification or their eligibility cannot immediately be verified by elections officials.

    Pettis says provisional ballots are sealed inside the envelope and sent separately to the supervisor of elections’ office. The box is then loaded with office supplies and dispatched to the same office but does not contain any ballots.

    One such box found at an elementary school was opened for reporters. It contained only the office supplies.

    NO. . . Outsider. . . only the 30-40% FOX/trump cult thinks such awful things about Democrats. The majority of US Citizens are NOT filled with such fear and hate!

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