Florida Recount Wrapping Up, But One County Unable To Tally ‘A Significant Amount’ Of Votes By Deadline

Election workers are surrounded by boxes of ballots that need to be recounted by 3 p.m. Thursday to determine results in three key Florida races.
Saul Martinez / Getty Images

Florida’s election recount is scheduled to finish up Thursday afternoon, but for one county it will be “nearly impossible,” according to the New York Times, to meet the 3 p.m. deadline. Officials are saying that Palm Beach County’s tabulation equipment has come up short “a significant number” of ballots for the final Senate tally.

The state is in the middle of an intense machine recount for three key races — those for the positions of governor, senator, and agriculture commissioner — and nearly a dozen lawsuits have been filed in efforts to extend deadlines, count rejected mail ballots, and impound equipment.

One hearing was held in federal court Thursday morning, in an effort by the Democratic Party to get the recount deadlines extended. Tallahassee Federal District Court Judge Mark E. Walker stumped the lawyers with one question: “Would it be legal to proceed with recount results that are missing one county?”

“There is no constitutional right to have your vote counted a second or a third time,” Mohammad Omar Jazil told the court. Jazil is a lawyer for the Florida secretary of state.

Palm Beach County, whose equipment does not allow for more than one race to be counted at a time, is the only county not expected to meet Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. They chose to put priority on recounting the first race listed on the ballot — the contest for Senate between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott, who leads by a little over 12,000 votes.

After the machines overheated earlier this week, almost 200,000 votes had to be recounted. It wasn’t until after the mechanical failure was corrected — and the machines were restarted — that a second problem arose. According to Palm Beach County elections supervisor Susan Bucher, entire boxes of votes were not tabulated, and now the totals don’t add up.

Bucher would not give the number of missing boxes, but told the New York Times that “a little bit more than a dozen precincts lost substantial numbers.” The result, she said, is that workers are now having to meticulously look through count logs to determine how many ballots are missing from each precinct, and, based on the number of ballots actually in the box, attempt to figure out which ones need to cycle through the machine again.

Separately, Judge Walker ruled on Thursday that the Florida law giving county election officials the authority to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots because the voters’ signatures did not match the ones that were on file “threatens to unconstitutionally disenfranchise thousands of voters,” the New York Times reported. A new deadline of 5 p.m. on Saturday was given to resolve problems with ballots containing mismatched signatures, giving voters until this weekend to confirm their identities.

Lauren Schenon, a spokeswoman for Rick Scott’s campaign, said in a statement that they would be “immediately appealing” the decision, citing that the ruling only applies to a small amount of people who received late notifications about their rejected signatures.

“As we near the machine recount deadline this afternoon, it has become clear to everyone (except Bill Nelson) that Senator-elect Scott’s 12,000+ vote lead truly is ‘insurmountable,'” Schenon said.

Tallahassee Governor Andrew Gillum trails behind former Republican congressman Ron DeSantis by 30,000 votes in the race for governor, which he is not expected to recover when the recount results are released on Thursday afternoon.