Recount in Florida – The 2020 election could occur in Florida, and a new law aims to ensure that a possible recount goes smoothly.
Miami-Dade Election Workers check the accuracy of voting machines at the Miami-Dade Elections Department Headquarters on October 14, 2020, in Doral, Florida. The test was done as the county prepares for the November 3 election, in which President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden face off.
Miami and Florida residents have reason to expect a November 3 presidential election recount to be messy and possibly game-changing.
Remember the 2000 presidential election, in which the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount when the Texas government did. George W. Bush had 537 ahead of Vice President Al Gore. The court order tipped the presidential race on Bush’s path, giving him not only the state but enough electoral votes to secure the safety of the position of presidency.
This year, with a landmark election looming on November 3, voting rights activists want to help ensure the integrity of a presidential recount that could easily take place in this crucial battlefield state.
The method they rely on is the preservation of the digital voting image. If a recount becomes necessary, they say, the public can trust this electronic paper trail as a backup for critical paper ballots.
“Digital ballot images are among the most verifiable, transparent, and easily accessible means of ensuring the security, accuracy, and completeness of elections,” said Miami attorney Ben Kuehne. He is the lead adviser to a group of voters and lawmakers who have charged Florida election officials to force them to obtain the ballots’ images.
“The voting machines automatically create a digital ballot image out of every ballot received and processed,” Kuehne says. These electronic photos “function to make every vote count and to speedily assist in the complicated and time-consuming recount process that is so essential to accurate elections.”
Florida officially became the fourth state, joining Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia, whose election officials agreed to keep digital images of ballots long enough to be used in a recount. Efforts are underway to add Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, said Chris Sautter, legal counsel to the non-profit public interest organization AUDIT Elections USA and attorney for the Florida case plaintiffs.
It is something new. Although federal law requires all “election material” to be retained for 22 months after a federal election and digital images of ballots – not paper ballots – are counted, some election officials maintain the document but destroy the photos, he said.
Repetitions may be uncommon elsewhere, but in Florida, they are just as common as tropical storms. The district election leaders have come to accept them only as they get it again.
“You hear these people talk about Florida like it’s a horrible thing that we have a recount. We have recounts all the time. If somebody wins by as much as 1%, that’s unusual,” says election supervisor Susan Gill of Citrus County, southwest of Gainesville, in rural central Florida.
Florida law encourages automatic recounts when the profit margin is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total number of votes cast. A 0.25% margin of victory triggers a manual recount, according to Ballotpedia.
The law is nonchalant on what happens if a candidate requests a recount. But since it’s possible President Donald Trump or Joe Biden may demand one in Florida, vote monitors are bracing for action, said Kuehne, a member of Gore’s 2000 legal recount team.
Retention of digital ballots will soon be required by law in Florida, but not in time for all of the November 3 elections. A bill Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year sets a January 1 compliance date for election officials to activate the switch that records images of electronic ballots. However, an agreement filed on August 24 in a high court. Tallahassee’s body guarantees that the photos will be available for a possible presidential election tale this year.
Voting rights activists headed to court in July for not wanting to risk waiting so long for all races in the state. They feared a repeat of the 2018 U.S. senatorial elections, when, following a problematic recount, Gov. Rick Scott beat Sen. Bill Nelson for 10,033 of the 8.1 million votes cast.
From that election, 2,040 ballots were lost in Broward County, a densely populated Democratic stronghold in South Florida, according to the complaint in the ballot image retention case.
“Had Broward County used the then-available digital ballot images, there would have been 100 percent certainty that every ballot cast was viewed, as the law requires for a recount, and recounted,” Kuehne says.