Nearly 20 years ago, the nation’s eyes were transfixed on a contentious Florida election recount to determine the winner of the presidential race. That recount was cut short by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that even today has left many wondering who really won. This week, the nation’s eyes (and the president’s tweets) are focused on another contentious statewide Florida recount, this one involving the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger, Governor Rick Scott. Although two other statewide races are also under recount — the gubernatorial race and a contest for agriculture commissioner — the U.S. Senate race has drawn the most acrimony, attention, and legal action, since a win for Scott would help Republicans maintain their grip on the Senate. Florida’s secretary of state ordered machine recounts in all three of these statewide races due to narrow margins. The deadline for completion was supposed to be Thursday afternoon, but a judge has ordered an extension to Nov. 20 for Palm Beach County. Other counties have complained they cannot complete the process by Thursday.
National: What Happens When Politicians Who Oversee Elections Are Also the Candidates? | The New York Times
It was only a week ago that Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida and candidate for the United States Senate, claimed on television that “rampant fraud” was perhaps imperiling his election to Congress, and that he was asking the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. Earlier in the day, at the Georgia State Capitol, Secretary of State Brian Kemp defended his decision to oversee an acrimonious election in which he was a candidate for governor and, by his own preliminary assessment, a victorious one. The elections in the Southeast’s two most populous states remained undecided Wednesday, more than a week after the balloting, embroiled in lawsuits and accusations. Much of the turmoil is attributable to the high-profile political prizes at stake. But some can be traced to decisions by Mr. Scott and Mr. Kemp to mix, by design or duty, their public roles with their political lives.
Florida: Miami-Dade launches hand recount of 10,000 uncounted ballots in Scott vs. Nelson | Miami Herald
A room full of Miami-Dade election workers began a hand recount Thursday night of more than 10,000 problematic ballots cast in the U.S. Senate race, joined by a room full of lawyers and volunteers from both campaigns eager to contest votes for the other side. The county that still hasn’t lived down its chaotic role in the 2000 presidential recount returned to the grueling manual reckoning required under Florida law for a pair of exceptionally close statewide races. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, leads incumbent Bill Nelson by about 12,000 votes statewide in the Senate contest, and Democrat Nikki Fried is ahead by about 5,000 over Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner. Miami-Dade plans to start the mandated hand recount of more than 30,000 problematic ballots in the agriculture race after it concludes the review of the Senate ballots.
National: Why we’re still waiting for election results from Florida and Georgia — and why newly counted ballots favor Democrats | The Washington Post
It’s been a week since Election Day, and we’re still awaiting results from Florida and Georgia, where nationally prominent races are too close to call. Since Election Day, an additional 50,000 votes have been counted in Florida, narrowing the lead for Republican Gov. Rick Scott over Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson in the Senate race, and for Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial contest. Both races are headed to a recount. In Georgia, nearly 150,000 votes have been added to the election night tally, cutting the lead of Republican Brian Kemp in half over Democrat Stacey Abrams in the contest for governor. That contest, too, may be headed for a recount. Across the country, in Arizona, a close-but-comfortable election night lead for Republican senatorial candidate Martha McSally was transformed a week later into a victory for her Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, as an additional 800,000 ballots were counted, and the results flipped.
National: What a lost Florida ballot says about how difficult it is for U.S. citizens abroad to vote | The Washington Post
With time officially running out Thursday at 8 p.m., Florida counties are in the midst of a dramatic recount to determine the winners in three statewide races. One week after the midterm elections, the outcome of several key votes is still unclear, which has triggered comparisons with the 2000 recount of Florida votes during the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. It’s likely that the uncertainty may drag on even longer than first estimated, as several counties have asked for extensions. Ballots mailed from abroad are being counted until Friday. But Amalee McCoy’s won’t be among them. The 42-year-old U.S. citizen who has lived abroad for almost three decades sent in her ballot from Thailand on Oct. 17, using registered mail. “We kept a copy of the tracking number as I was concerned about reports of voter suppression during early voting already happening in the news,” said McCoy, who lives in Bangkok but votes in Osceola County, Fla. In previous years, voting from abroad posed few challenges, she said. But this year, things went differently.
It’s now just more than a week after Election Day, which means that we’re in recount season. In the governor’s and Senate races in Florida, possibly in the governor’s race in Georgia, and in smaller local races galore, officials are gathering to re-tabulate the ballots in contests where one candidate led by a razor-thin margin on election night. It’s become a ritual of our democracy that when the outcome is close, each side usually accuses the other of trying to steal the election. In some cases, it’s obvious that we should double-check the count. Our mantra is, as it should be, to make sure every ballot is counted fairly and accurately. It’s a noble democratic goal. The trouble is, we don’t know how to accomplish it. Seriously. We’ve been counting objects since we were toddlers playing with blocks, and we ought to be pretty good at it. We’re not — at least when we’re counting ballots. The tally from election night (what cognoscenti have come to call the “preliminary” count) is almost certainly wrong. Let’s be very clear about that. Counting errors are a given, no matter what system is used. We humans miscount paper ballots, but machines aren’t much better. Ballots get mangled, they stick to each other, they get counted twice or not at all. So we count again. Of course we do. The trouble is that the recount — known as the “official” or the “certified” count — is also almost certainly wrong.
Florida’s recount of the midterm elections continued to unfold on Tuesday with new plot twists and a nail-biter narrative, as Broward County’s embattled elections supervisor finally began recounting ballots and candidates filed new lawsuits challenging state laws that govern the process. Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who announced that she likely would not seek re-election when her term expires in 2020, said her office began recounting more than 700,000 votes shortly before noon while workers also sorted ballots for the three relevant statewide races: U.S. Senator, Florida governor and commissioner of agriculture. Though Broward started its recount three days after Miami-Dade began preparing to re-tally more than 800,000 ballots, Snipes said she was confident that her office will finish by Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline to deliver results from the machine recounts to the state. That’s because Broward has fewer votes to count than its neighbor county to the south, and uses faster high-speed counting machines. “There hasn’t been a deadline that we’ve missed,” Snipes said.
Florida: Federal prosecutors reviewing altered election documents tied to Florida Democrats | Politico
The Florida Department of State last week asked federal prosecutors to investigate dates that were changed on official state election documents, the first voting “irregularities” it has flagged in the wake of the 2018 elections. The concerns, which the department says can be tied to the Florida Democratic Party, center around date changes on forms used to fix vote-by-mail ballots sent with incorrect or missing information. Known as “cure affidavits,” those documents used to fix mail ballots were due no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 — the day before the election. But affidavits released on Tuesday by the DOS show that documents from four different counties said the ballots could be returned by 5 p.m. on Thursday, which is not accurate. Audio of a Florida Democratic Party caller leaving a voicemail message asking a Palm Beach County voter to fix their vote by mail ballot after Election Day, which is not allowed, was also sent to POLITICO separately. It was not part of the information turned over to federal prosecutors.
Editorials: Why is no one talking about the uncounted, suppressed votes in Florida? | Carol Anderson/The Guardian
Florida is, once again, in an election debacle that is straining the bonds of credibility and democracy. Governor Rick Scott has actually called in the state police to investigate “voter fraud” (none was found), then ordered the voting machines impounded in Broward county, all to protect his precarious lead in the US Senate race. A judge, however, emphatically blocked that last command. Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has joined the chorus of those asserting, without any evidence, that something is rotten in Broward county. And Donald Trump has, well, just been Trump. Going so far as to demand that the Republicans be declared victors even before the legal deadline for votes, including those mailed in from military members stationed abroad, to be received and counted. As acrimonious as the 2018 election in Florida has become – as the Republicans seek to discredit the recount – democracy’s wound actually goes much deeper.
This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on November 14, 2018.
Well designed ballot layouts allow voters to make their intentions clear; badly designed ballots invite voters to make mistakes. This year, the Florida Senate race may be decided by a misleading ballot layout—a layout that violated the ballot design recommendations of the Election Assistance Commission. In Miami, Florida in the year 2000, the badly designed “butterfly ballot” misled over 2000 voters who intended to vote for Al Gore, to throw away their vote. (That’s a strong statement, but it’s backed up by peer-reviewed scientific analysis.) In Sarasota, Florida in the year 2006, in a Congressional race decided by 369 votes, over 18,000 voters failed to vote in that race, almost certainly because of a badly designed touch-screen ballot layout. In Broward County, Florida in the year 2018, it appears that a bad optical-scan ballot design caused over 26,000 voters to miss voting in the Senate race, where the margin of victory (as of this writing, not yet final) is 12,562 votes.
Georgia: Absentee ballots missing birth dates must be counted, judge orders | Atlanta Journal Constitution
A federal judge has ruled that Georgia counties must count absentee ballots even if the voter’s date of birth is incorrect or missing, and he is preventing the state from finalizing election results until that happens.
Although U.S. District Judge Steve Jones agreed with the Georgia Democratic Party and Stacey Abrams’ campaign on this issue, he ruled against them on two others. He will not require counties to accept absentee ballots with incorrect residence addresses or to accept provisional ballots cast by people who attempted to vote in a different county than where they are registered to vote. “Plaintiffs have shown that they are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief as to the absentee ballot (date of birth) issue,” Jones wrote in an order finalized late Wednesday. “Plaintiffs have not shown that they are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief as to the absentee ballot (residence) issue and provisional ballot issues.”
Iowa: Should Iowa restore voting rights to 52,000 felons? Advisory board pushes proposal. | Des Moines Register
Iowa felon voter rights should be restored, a legislative advisory board recommended Wednesday. It’s a proposal that could affect about 52,000 Iowans. After Florida voters on Nov. 6 approved an amendment to their state’s constitution that automatically restores the voting rights of felons who’ve completed their sentences or go on probation, Iowa and Kentucky are the only remaining states that permanently ban all felons from voting unless the governor individually restores their rights. “Iowa has been a leader on a whole range of civil rights issues; this is not one of them. Iowa is in the back of the line on this one,” Daniel Zeno, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said Wednesday to Iowa’s Public Safety Advisory Board.
Maine: Judge aims to announce fate of ranked-choice voting in Maine’s 2nd District on Thursday | Bangor Daily News
A federal judge said Wednesday he would try to issue an order Thursday on whether counting of ranked-choice votes in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election would continue or be halted while the constitutionality of the process is decided. Ballot counting by state election officials will likely be finished by Thursday, said Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. That could make a portion of the lawsuit moot, but the judge still could consider and rule on the underlying constitutional issues. Two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and three supporters sued Dunlap on Tuesday to stop the ranked-choice ballot count and declare him the winner in his re-election contest against Democrat Jared Golden.
New York: Over 1,000 Ballot Scanners Went Unused During New York City Election Day Fiasco | Gothamist
While thousands of New Yorkers stood in hours-long lines waiting for their chance to vote in last Tuesday’s midterm election, more than 1,000 Board of Elections scanners that could have been deployed to alleviate wait times and scanner malfunctions were kept out of circulation, according to officials on the Board. The details emerged following the first regularly scheduled meeting of the BOE since a chaotic election that saw widespread problems at poll sites in NYC. The meeting lasted less than eight minutes, but each commissioner still earned their regular pay of $300, in accordance with state law. Manhattan Commissioner Frederick Umane spoke to reporters following the brief session Tuesday. “We had over 300 scanners that were not deployed because we didn’t have room for them in the poll sites,” he said, speaking specifically about Manhattan. Umane said the BOE had consolidated some poll sites into buildings that were ADA accessible and run out of room to fit additional scanners.
A bipartisan group of legislators Tuesday proposed switching to paper ballots, even mail-in ballots, to replace the state’s “archaic” voting machines before South Carolinians cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election. Four S.C. House and Senate legislators said Tuesday they will pre-file bills next month to address the state’s aging voting machines and how the state should pay for a new voting system. “A voting system that is not only fair but also gives voters confidence that their vote has been cast and their vote has been … counted,” said state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter. Money for a new voting system should not be that hard to find in what is developing as a flush budget year.
US Virgin Islands: Court Blocks New Voter Registrations Before Nov. 20 Runoff Election | St. John Source
V.I. Superior Court Judge Denise Francois has granted a temporary restraining order “enjoining, restraining and prohibiting Defendant Arturo Watlington, in his capacity as chairman of the Board of Elections and the Virgin Islands Board of Elections” from allowing voter registration in the St. Thomas-St. John district ahead of next week’s runoff election for governor and lieutenant governor, the V.I. Department of Justice announced Wednesday. Meanwhile, the fact that one district planned to register voters while the other did not appears to fly in the face of the intent, if not the explicit wording, of a 2016 V.I. law unifying former district elections boards into a single board.
Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) is filing a lawsuit against the Salt Lake County Clerk in a bid to stop the counting of votes until her campaign is allowed to challenge whether signatures on ballot envelopes match those on file, a move that Love’s Democratic opponent said Wednesday “smacks of desperation.” As of Wednesday evening, Love was trailing Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) by 873 votes, or 0.36 percentage point, in the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. That margin is narrower than the 6,700 votes by which McAdams was leading Nov. 8. Utah law allows candidates to request a recount when the margin of victory is 0.25 percentage point or less. In the lawsuit, news of which was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Love’s campaign argues that the Salt Lake County clerk has allowed poll monitors to observe the ballot-counting process but has denied them the ability to challenge signatures on ballot envelopes. Voting by mail is popular in Utah. In the state’s primary elections earlier this year, 90 percent of ballots were cast by mail.
A top EU official has named Russia as the main source behind activities interfering with elections in Europe but noted that others are also learning from Moscow. “Crucial electoral rules have been breached or circumvented, in particular existing rules on transparency of campaign financing,” Vera Jourova, European commissioner for justice and consumer policy, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 14. “The most cited source of activities interfering with elections in Europe is Russia,” Jourova said, adding also that “other countries and private interests increase their capabilities for election interference.” “Investigations are ongoing into allegations of dark financing from undisclosed third-country sources,” she told EU lawmakers.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was set to win re-election on Thursday, with a provisional count showing his Fiji First party holding a comfortable lead, although some voting has been delayed due to bad weather in the South Pacific nation. Bainimarama has held power in the island nation since 2006 when as military chief he led a bloodless coup. In 2014, he resigned from the military and became prime minister in a landslide victory at the first poll since his coup. Results posted on the government’s twitter account on Thursday morning showed Bainimarama’s Fiji First party leading with nearly 52 percent of the 367,350 votes counted. Over 500,000 Fijians were eligible to vote, according to the Fiji Elections Office (FEO) website.
A runoff presidential election in December is likely in Madagascar where two former presidents are in a tight race, according to results announced Wednesday from 70 percent of polling stations. Seven days after voting, former transitional president Andry Rajoelina is leading with 39 percent of the votes counted, followed closely by former president Marc Ravalomanana with 36 percent. The most recent president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is far behind with 7 percent, according to results from 17,097 of the 24,852 polling stations, according to the national electoral commission. A total of 36 candidates contested the Nov. 7 election. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes, a second round will take place on December 19th. All the leading candidates have expressed doubts about the reliability commission’s results. Madagascar has been shaken many times by post-election crises.
Sri Lanka’s top court suspended an order by President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve the island nation’s parliament and call a snap general election after Ranil Wickremesinghe mounted a legal challenge against his ouster as prime minister. The Supreme Court granted interim relief until Dec. 7, staying the Presidential notice suspending parliament and halting preparations for the poll. The court’s order on Tuesday means that Sri Lanka’s parliament will reconvene on Nov. 14 as earlier decided by the president. He was acting in response to mounting pressure to resolve the political crisis since his surprise dismissal of Wickremesinghe on Oct. 26. “We will be in parliament tomorrow and we will show the majority, that we are the legitimate government in Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo following the court’s decision.
United Kingdom: General Election? The three routes which could lead to a snap vote | London Evening Standard
Britain could be facing another general election as soon as January if Theresa May fails to get her Brexit deal through parliament, a leading academic has said. The prime minister is set to put her Brexit deal in front of the House of Commons within a month if she wins the backing of her Cabinet and after it has been agreed with the other 27 EU member states at an emergency summit in November. If she fails to gain the support of MPs, the government could choose to simply stop negotiations with the EU and opt for “no deal” or try to get the deal passed a second time. If the prime minister completely fails to get parliament’s support, there are three possible routes which could lead to a general election being called, according to Dr Alan Wager from the UK in a Changing EU thinktank.