Tags: 2018 Midterm Elections | florida | recount | rick scott | bill nelson

Florida's Vanishing Votes: Almost 1,000 Ballots Just Disappear

demonstrators hold up signs during a news conference in broward county, fla.
(Wilfredo Lee/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 15 November 2018 07:11 PM

The latest bizarre twist in a Florida vote-recount battle that has already serving up a goldmine of material for late-night jokesters: One Florida county revealed Thursday its machine recount tallied 846 fewer votes than the tally it reported to state election officials just five days earlier.

Apparently unable to resolve the question of how nearly 1,000 votes would seemingly disappear, Hillsborough County election officials announced a nifty solution: They will simply ignore the machine recount total, and stick with their original tally.

The Tampa Bay Times says that decision will cost GOP Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott 146 votes he would have gained under the machine recount.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, a Democrat, defended the canvassing board's decision to ignore the discrepancy and stick with their original number, stating "We are not willing to accept that votes go unreported."

That Hillsborough, the county that includes Tampa, Florida, would inexplicably fall short by so many votes is especially curious given the outcome of a high-profile election lawsuit filed earlier this week by Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate currently leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by about 12,600 votes. 

Judge Cheryl Thomas of Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit issued a writ of mandamus Wednesday in Gov. Scott's favor, ordering Latimer to open the recount process to election observers from both parties. Scott's lawsuit charged Hillsborough officials were not allowing observers into the room where the recount was being conducted, in violation of Florida's election rules.

At least two rules in the Florida administrative code require election supervisors to allow officials from both parties to be present in the room when machine recounts are conducted. A writ of mandamus is a court directive ordering a government official to carry out their official duties.

Palm Beach County was unable to complete its recount by the Thursday 3 p.m. ET deadline, due to antiquated equipment and mechanical breakdowns. But Hillsborough's decision not to submit the results of the machine recount appeared to be quite different, and intentional.

Latimer did state his office experienced several power outages and one instance of an equipment breakdown. But he did not suggest that was the reason for the decision not to submit the machine recount to the state.

Under Florida election law, the vote tally for any county that missed the 3 p.m. ET on Thursday machine-recount deadline will automatically revert back to the unofficial vote totals that were previously submitted.

In an election that has already spawned at least seven lawsuits, the unexplained shrinkage of votes cast in Hillsborough County would appear extremely likely to trigger further legal action.

Sen. Nelson's lead over Scott in Hillsborough was 41,852 votes Saturday, when the first unofficial vote totals were submitted.

The machine recount would have narrowed Nelson's lead to 41,706 votes, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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One Florida county revealed Thursday its machine recount tallied 846 fewer votes than the tally it reported to state election officials and Hillsborough County election officials announced a nifty solution: Simply ignore the machine recount total and stick with the initial tally.
florida, recount, rick scott, bill nelson
Thursday, 15 November 2018 07:11 PM
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