Florida recount begins with 700,000 votes remaining after technical difficulties

Uncounted ballots may ultimately determine who wins several contentious races across the Sunshine State

Chris Riotta
New York
Sunday 11 November 2018 23:52
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An official recount has begun in Broward County, Florida, amid some of the Sunshine State’s most highly-contested races since the 2000 presidential fiasco.

The Democrat-leaning county began counting about 700,000 ballots Sunday after the recount was reportedly delayed because of a problem with one of the tabulation machines.

The Republican Party attacked Broward’s supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, for “incompetence and gross mismanagement” following the delay, which was resolved within two hours.

The heavily Democratic county is one of two where Republicans have made allegations of possible ballot fraud. State elections and law enforcement officials say they have seen no evidence suggesting the allegations are true.

Broward officials said they mistakenly counted 22 absentee ballots that had been rejected, mostly because the signature on the return envelope did not match the one on file. It is a problem that appears impossible to fix because the ballots were mixed in with 205 legal ballots. Ms Snipes said it would be unfair to throw out all the ballots.

The Florida secretary of state ordered the recounts on Saturday. The count must be completed by Thursday.

Unofficial results show that Republican Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5 per cent. In the Senate race, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is less than 0.25 per cent.

The recount in most other major population centres, including Miami-Dade and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the Tampa Bay area, was ongoing without incident on Sunday. Smaller counties are expected to begin their reviews on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. All counties face a Thursday afternoon deadline to complete the recount.

The reviews are an unprecedented step in Florida, a state that is notorious for election results decided by the thinnest of margins. State officials said they weren't aware of any other time either a race for governor or US Senate in Florida required a recount, let alone both in the same election.

State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 per cent. Once completed, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 per cent or below, a hand recount will be ordered.

As the recount unfolded, Republicans urged their Democratic opponents to give up and allow the state to move on. Mr Scott said Sunday that Mr Nelson wants fraudulent ballots and those cast by non-citizens to count, pointing to a Mr Nelson lawyer objecting to Palm Beach County’s rejection of one provisional ballot because it was cast by a noncitizen.

“He is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Mr Scott told Fox News. “Bill Nelson’s a sore loser. He’s been in politics way too long.”

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Mr Nelson’s campaign issued a statement Sunday saying their lawyer was not authorised to object to the ballot’s rejection as “non-citizens cannot vote in US elections".

Meanwhile, Mr Gillum and Mr Nelson have argued each vote should be counted and the process allowed to take its course.

Both the state elections division, which Mr Scott runs, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have said they have found no evidence of voter fraud.

Reporting contributed by AP

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