When the dust settled from the 2018 Florida Senate recount, Republican Rick Scott had beaten Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes. Give or take a few hundred. Maybe more. As the New York Times put it on November 16, in what was one of the more understated headlines of the year, “Nearly 3,000 Votes Disappeared from Florida’s Recount. That’s Not Supposed to Happen.” No, it’s not. The American people are asked to have a bit of faith in our system of government, but no faith should be required when it comes to election results. Faith depends on believing in things unseen, and ballots can be seen and touched, counted and recounted. But in a few counties in Florida, election officials essentially asked the voters to close their eyes, click their heels together three times, and believe that their initial unofficial results were correct, even though hundreds or thousands of votes had gone missing during the machine recount.
In Democratic Broward County, 2,040 fewer votes were counted during the machine recount than in the initial count, and the loss of votes would have decreased Democrat Bill Nelson’s margin in Broward by nearly 800 votes. The Times reported that elections supervisor Brenda Snipes “said the ballots that weren’t included in the recount had probably been misfiled with another stack of ballots.”
So Broward relied on its initial vote count rather than its machine recount. Hillsborough County and Palm Beach County did the same. In Hillsborough, there were 850 fewer votes in the recount totals, due to power failures, according to officials. In Palm Beach, Democratic supervisor Susan Bucher said there were “dozens of precincts missing a significant number” of votes, but the county was unable to complete its machine recount. “Ms. Bucher blamed an overheated and outdated ballot-scanning machine,” the Times reported. “But the manufacturer of the high-speed scanner used in Palm Beach said its technicians had witnessed Palm Beach County elections workers, apparently worried that one of the machines was running too fast, jam a paper clip into the scanner’s ‘enter’ button in an effort to slow it down. That, in turn, caused a short circuit that cut off the power, a company spokeswoman said.”