Why Is It So Hard To Count Votes In Florida?

Florida election continues on
Saul Martinez / Getty Images

The results of a Florida election must wait, again, while votes are recounted. It’s a frustrating repeat of the 2000 election that held the world in its thrall as Al Gore and George W. Bush fought to see who would be president.

How is it possible that something similar is happening a second time, and the same major counties are still at the center of the mess?

The senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) is still a nail-biter, with only a 0.15 percent margin separating the two contenders. This is a small enough margin to trigger a hand recount under state law, which must be completed by the November 20 deadline set for state officials to certify the election results, according to The Hill.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every single ballot is actually counted by hand. It means that election officials will look through the overvotes and undervotes. These are ballots where voters marked more or fewer than the number of selections they were given.

There are 23,000 overvotes and undervotes in Broward County alone. All these will be sorted by hand.

There’s a different scenario playing out in the gubernatorial race that will determine Florida’s next governor. There is a 0.41 margin between Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D), which does not require a hand recount.

However, Gillum is not conceding the race. He says that tens of thousands of votes have not been counted.

“We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process,” he said on Thursday.

382382 03: (FILE PHOTO) Judge Robert Rosenberg of the Broward County Canvassing Board uses a magnifying glass to examine a dimpled chad on a punch card ballot November 24, 2000 during a vote recount in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Robert King/Newsmakers)
  Robert King / Getty Images

Several counties missed the Thursday deadline for the machine recount.

Lawsuits have been filed, and allegations of fraud have been made. It’s an eerie parallel to 2000, and it’s enough to raise one question: what in the heck is up with Florida and all these voting problems?

In 2000, it was hanging chads. Now, it’s overheating voting machines. Palm Beach County has been plagued with problems from their machines, which are 11-years-old, according to NBC News.

Florida does have $11 million earmarked to purchase new voting equipment. It hasn’t been purchased yet, because the state is trying to figure out how to make the machines compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This equipment probably won’t be running for the 2020 election, which means everyone could do this dance again in two years.

State laws force a machine recount of votes if the margin between two candidates is very narrow, as is the case in the senate race. If the machine recount shows a very low margin, then votes must be counted by hand, per state law.

Palm Beach and Broward Counties are strong in Democratic voters, and have large voting populations. These counties potentially have the power to sway the rest of the state, which is largely red, toward a Democratic candidate. This is why it has now become common for Democrats to argue for every one of the votes in these counties to be counted, while Republicans argue just as passionately against it.

When lawsuits start getting tossed back and forth, and election offices are covered up with security because of protesters outside the walls, recounting votes becomes a tricky, tedious process.

The votes have been counted and they’ve been re-counted. Now, they must be counted again. In five days, the state of Florida will reach another election deadline. Maybe then, they’ll know who won their elections.

And maybe we’ll all do this again in 2020, too.