Lawmakers Expected To Dig Into Election Problems

November 17, 2018

Florida lawmakers will be asked to tackle how elections are run, after the chaos of this year’s elections led to a federal judge calling the state’s process “the laughingstock of the world.”

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, who will take the reins of the chamber on Tuesday, told reporters Friday that he expects lawmakers to review various aspects of the elections process, from the handling of vote-by-mail ballots to certification dates.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he’s heard from a number of senators about the issue and that he wants to revisit aspects of state elections laws. He pointed to problems beyond the current election cycle, which has included troubled recounts in races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner and three legislative seats.

The goal, he said, is to keep future elections from “judicial intervention.”

“There is an interest among the members that I’ve talked to — after this cycle — to revisit it, and figure out why ballots appear, why they are hard to track, why we have machine recounts that produce a substantially lesser number of votes than originally reported,” Galvano said during a gathering with reporters in his office in advance of a legislative organization session Tuesday. “Those are all issues that are important.”

A spokesman for the House did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson said in a telephone interview Friday that, in addition to looking for ways to improve the vote-by-mail process, any legislative approach to elections should consider uniformity among ballot designs.

The Jacksonville Democrat also said Florida should create a contingent of county elections supervisors to review how other states conduct different aspect of the voting process, with an emphasis on states like Oregon where elections have been conducted exclusively by mail.

“If we’re determining the process, it’s up to us to make this as smooth a process as possible for the voters. That’s who it’s about,” Gibson said. “I believe we can get to that place. I don’t think any member of the Legislature wants our state to look in disarray.”

The comments from Galvano and Gibson came a day after U.S. District Judge Mark Walker expressed exasperation as lawsuits piled up over the Nov. 6 election. He ripped the elections process as he dealt with a case involving Palm Beach County, which was unable to finish a machine recount because of antiquated equipment.

“We have been the laughingstock of the world in election after election and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said. “I get all that. … We’re still going to go to a default where we don’t count every vote.”

Asked about comments — including by Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump — regarding elections being stolen and incompetence by county elections supervisors, Galvano said there may not have been much confidence in Florida elections even going into the cycle. The state drew worldwide attention for the 2000 presidential recount.

“We have sort of been painted with that brush since 2000,” Galvano said. “I think they definitely highlight that we have concerns, and you see repeated problems in the South Florida counties. I think by the next election cycle, the voters are going to want to have more in terms of assurance that their votes are going to be properly counted.”

Without pointing to Broward and Palm Beach counties, Galvano discussed a need to look at how vote-by-mail ballots are handled, from signatures to the chain of command within county supervisors offices.

Another area that Galvano wants reviewed is how recounts are conducted, noting that in Hillsborough County the overall ballot count went down significantly in the machine recount.

The county is a concern for Galvano because Democrat Janet Cruz, the House minority leader, held a narrow lead in her bid to unseat Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, in Senate District 18.

The race went to a manual recount on Thursday after county Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer decided not to submit machine recount numbers due the reduced ballot count. Instead, he refiled earlier unofficial numbers.

“It does raise concern when you see a change in numbers in terms of votes cast,” Galvano said.

According to the county election office, during the recount there were a pair of power outages, along with the impacts of an emergency court hearing, resulting in 846 fewer votes in the machine recount.

Democrats said Friday that Cruz has won the race. But the deadline for counties to complete their manual recounts is noon Sunday. Mark Ard, a spokesman for the state Division of Elections, said election results will be simultaneously posted.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida


8 Responses to “Lawmakers Expected To Dig Into Election Problems”

  1. David Huie Green on November 20th, 2018 5:38 pm

    “So is this what an “under vote” is? It is odd that “under votes” only seem to be a real issue in a hand recount and mostly in Palm Beach and Broward.”

    An undervote is a ballot showing no choice in a given race.
    An overvote is a ballot showing more than one choice in a given race.

    They only come up in hand recounts because those are the only ones counted in a hand recount.

    If there is clearly no vote, it is settled.
    If there is clearly a vote, it is counted.
    If there is a clear vote and clearly a stray marks, it is voted by agreed intent.
    If there is a clear multivote, it is rejected and no count.
    If there is a dispute, it is determined by a group of people who are not all of one party and they decide with their decision recorded so everyone can see and agree or disagree.

    Poor old Dr. Snipes in Broward county did many things wrong, but those watching her tended to agree it was due to incompetence. Her ballot form allowed a bunch of incompetent voters to not notice they weren’t voting for the senatorial race. It didn’t take long to realize the undervotes were real no-vote ballots, though.

    The paper clip on the ENTER button in Palm Beach county was also incompetence and stupidity. It happens.

    Other states also had problems with voting but were not so evenly divided so nobody much cared.

    David for better people

  2. Wilykyote on November 19th, 2018 3:38 pm

    So…..turns out there were missing ballots down in Broward County….the
    Supervisor of Elections has resigned ( prolly get fired anyway ) and the
    Turn-out was right at 70% for Democrats Gillum & Nelson and some others.

  3. Dale Flowers on November 17th, 2018 6:08 pm

    Thank you, M in Bratt. I am better informed now.

  4. M in Bratt on November 17th, 2018 2:36 pm

    @Dale; Yours is a very informative post, but some errors. There are no “hanging chad” punch card machines left in Fl. They were all replaced after the first debacle in Palm Beach County,. ie; Gore Bush election. There is standardization in Fl. voting machines as they all have to have and retain a paper ballot, and none have been used in more than a few elections. There is standardization of how the under votes and over votes are to be evaluated, how mail in’s are to be evaluated, time limits on counts, deadlines on counts etc. These standards are codified in the Fl. Statutes. What we need is some severe penalties for anybody that tries to bend the law in any candidates favor. We can go through a litany of things Snipes has done to interfere with a accurate and timely count, the latest being the technicians that flew in to work on the machines caught workers intentionally feeding paper clips into the machines to jam them and burn up the motors. Lock em Up

  5. Dale Flowers on November 17th, 2018 12:48 pm

    My understanding of this thing about the “under votes” and “over votes” is incomplete. I never paid much attention to it but after hearing the TV folks talk about it and doing a little Googling what I now understand about it is that “over voting” is when a voter marks more than one candidate per office. In that case the voting machine rejects those particular votes and in a hand recount it is also discarded. An “under vote” is the case where the voter, by error or by choice, does not indicate a choice for any candidate. In this case the voting machine registers no votes for any particular candidate. But the rub is that in a hand recount it is kind of up to the election supervisor I think. The supervisor can simply look at the ballot, see no vote and then count no vote. And as all 67 Florida counties can use whatever type of voting machine their budget allows and design their own ballots as to placement of candidates and the use of “fill in the dot” or “complete the slot” with a felt tip pen or use a stylus to poke out a chad, if there is an “under vote” the election supervisor can take it upon themselves to divine the voter’s intention and complete the ballot where there are “blank votes”…that is, if there is the merest dent in the paper at or near a chad, or smudge of ink near a particular candidate because some person may have had difficulty coloring between the lines or following directions. So is this what an “under vote” is? It is odd that “under votes” only seem to be a real issue in a hand recount and mostly in Palm Beach and Broward. In past elections I have deliberately under voted on a few offices/candidates I cared nothing about or knew nothing about. I simply withheld my vote. That was my intention. I am happy I live in Escambia county where the election supervisor doesn’t play voodoo with my vote. It’s time for some standardization in the voting process across the counties. Time for more transparency and stiffer penalties too. I’d like to see election supervisors graded on their job performance and let the chips fall where they may in terms of their paychecks, retention and scrutiny for criminal prosecution.

  6. Wilykyote on November 17th, 2018 9:19 am

    I’d get rid of coloring (completely ) in an OVAL to putting an “X” in a big box
    I’d also say if you show a pictured proof of address & who you are then signing
    shouldn’t be needed . I’d hold Amendments to 5 maximum and single issue
    only. I’d have 2 weeks of voting (Monday thru Saturday) instead of the thought
    (By many) of “VOTE DAY”. I’d require all candidates to state party affiliation or
    NPA . At the top of the ballot write your Name,Address, and date of birth. I’d then
    give Elections Offices until the next Friday to submit their FINAL results after the
    final day of voting . I’d have the Attorney General prosecute any Election
    Officials/employees breaking our Election Laws.

  7. Grand Locust on November 17th, 2018 7:27 am

    Twenty five years ago, you never heard the national media making fun of Florida. How did we become the joke state in America? Elections are close in Florida. Recounts should be much more efficient and transparent. I just do not expect improvements. We have some of the goofiest people moving to the state as every misfit in America figures that Florida is messed up and they figure they will fit right in…………mass shootings, people driving into houses, and that Florida guy making the news every week.

  8. M in Bratt on November 17th, 2018 6:02 am

    I’m not sure we need to add more laws, We need to add severe penalties for Supervisors of Election that don’t adhere to the laws that are in place.

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