Florida's Election Dysfunction Back in Spotlight

November 16, 2018

By J.D. Durkin and Carlo Versano

PALM BEACH ー Florida's nail-biter of a Senate race is still not over.

After a machine recount of ballots in the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate seat found them still within a hair's breadth of each other ーabout 12,000 votes or .15 percentage point ー the state is now endeavoring to recount, by hand, thousands of "over" and "under" votes, many of which will come down to "voter intent."

That hand recount is being done by a bevy of volunteers, including here at the main election facility for Palm Beach County. A certification deadline of Tuesday, Nov. 20, loomed over the painstaking process as it kicked off around mid-day Friday.

The recount is being lorded over by an army of lawyers representing both sides, and gives an indication of how national politicians see this state ー the same state that decided the 2000 election ー and all of its dysfunction as a harbinger for the 2020 presidential race.

The machine recount of the gubernatorial race, on the other hand, all but assured its outcome was settled. Republican Ron DeSantis maintained a slim but steady lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum in that race and appears certain to become the next governor, though Gillum has not yet conceded.

Florida's decentralized and archaic voting system was thrown into the spotlight once again, 18 years after becoming ground zero in the presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. That machine recount was plagued by power outages, overheated machines, human errors, missed deadlines, and lawsuits.

As Florida's election issues was once again thrust into the national spotlight, state officials tried to prevent history from repeating itself. Scott implored Nelson to quit the race, lest he "bring more embarrassment to the state." A federal judge in Tallahassee said "we have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election."

But new developments continued to highlight the sorry state of affairs. In Broward County, state officials denied the results of the machine recount because they came in two minutes after the deadline, reportedly because county vote counters couldn't figure out how to work the website. Broward's hand recount has been smoother: officials there announced they were done by Friday afternoon, way ahead of schedule. That is not a good sign for Nelson supporters, who were counting on high turnout in that left-leaning county.