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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — The embattled Broward County Elections Department completed the machine recount that could help determine the next senator and Governor in Florida, one of America’s top political battlegrounds.
However, those results were submitted two minutes past the 3 p.m. deadline and will not count.
Instead, the initial results submitted last Saturday will be considered the official numbers now.
“The results were in progress when I came out and made the statement,” said Snipes. “The results were being uploaded when I came out to speak to you.”
Director of Broward Elections Planning Joseph D’Alessandro explained that the failure to get the votes in on time was “operator error” and unfamiliarity with the state website.
“I just worked my ass off for nothing,” he lamented.
Despite the error, and waste of three days of intense tabulations, the state has still ordered a manual recount in the Senate and Agriculture Commissioner races.
That means Broward will need to examine thousands of over vote/under vote ballots and make sure the results are submitted by Sunday at noon.
“You know I have to take responsibility for every act in this office, good, bad or indifferent,” said Snipes. “I always hold myself accountable.”
The department says it finished the machine recount around 1 a.m. and the canvassing board then began checking 384 damaged ballots.
The damaged ballots were duplicated and scanned into the machines and added to the final recount tally. Unfortunately, all that work went for nothing as they missed the state mandated deadline by two minutes.
Democratic stronghold of Palm Beach County also failed to meet its deadline.
Still, more than a week after Election Day, the sense of resolution could be lacking Thursday. Once the machine recount is complete, state law requires a hand review of races with margins of less than 0.25 percentage points. That means the Senate race, where unofficial results have Republican Gov. Rick Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.14 percentage points, is almost certain to go to another recount that will last through the weekend.
Although the machine recount may essentially bring a conclusion to the governor’s race, where Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in unofficial results, the election won’t be certified until Tuesday.
Despite an ongoing recount in Florida for the extremely tight Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott appeared at a photo opp Wednesday on Capitol Hill for newly-elected Republican Senators.
Scott has already declared himself the winner of the Senate race, but Nelson and the Democrats have filed several lawsuits that could disrupt the recount now underway.
Nelson, a three-time incumbent, has defended his legal strategy, saying in a statement Wednesday that “it remains the most important goal of my campaign to make sure that every lawful vote be counted correctly in this Senate race, and that Floridians’ right to participate in this process is protected.”
But Republicans have criticized the effort, saying Democrats are trying to change election rules once the voting was complete. Republicans have filed their own lawsuits and fought back against Nelson and Democrats.
“We will continue to fight to defend Florida law and uphold the will of the voters,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott.
That legal fight will continue again Thursday with hearings scheduled in federal court in two of the six outstanding lawsuits pending in Tallahassee.
Lawyers for both sides are also eagerly awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on whether he will order election officials to automatically count thousands of mail-in ballots that were rejected because the signatures on the ballots did not match signatures on file. Nelson and Democrats have argued election officials aren’t handwriting experts and should not be allowed to throw out ballots because of the mismatch.
But after a lengthy hearing, Walker said Wednesday that he was unlikely to side with Democrats and order the automatic counting of all the ballots with mismatched signatures. However, he did say he was open to giving voters extra time to fix their ballots.
The developments are fueling frustrations among Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats have urged state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every vote is counted. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.
Another big question looming Thursday is whether all counties will finish the machine recount. Tallying machines overheated earlier this week in Palm Beach County. That caused mismatched results with the recount of 174,000 early voting ballots, forcing staffers to go back and redo their work.
Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the machines underwent maintenance right before the election, but “I don’t think they were designed to work 24/7.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)