LAUDERHILL (CBSMiami) – The embattled Broward County Elections Department completed its hand recount in the contentious and too close to call Florida Senate race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson in quick time Friday morning.
However, workers taking part in the state-mandate manual recount won’t finish the recount Friday. The department opting instead to reconvene Saturday to start the hand recount in Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture race between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell.
A crowd of hundreds surrounded the outside of the Supervisor of Elections Office starting around 5:30 a.m. waiting to help.
Judge Betsy Benson of the Election Canvassing Board addressed the room before they began.
“Everyone in this room got up in the dark, ensured their families were taken care of for the full day, took care of any personal affairs they had so they can be here all day to participate in this process, because we all care.”
An equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats volunteered— 600 total— to count by hand the “over/under” ballots, or the ones that couldn’t be read by a machine. For example, it’s an “over” ballot if someone marked more than one candidate. It’s an “under” ballot if the person did not mark any candidate at all.
Supervisor of Elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes and Director of Election Planning, Joseph D’Alessandro, held an impromptu news conference where he explained the significance of the manual recount.
“For the Senate race we have 474 ‘overs’ and 30,449 ‘unders,’” D’Alessandro explained.
When asked if he thought the under ballots had anything to do with ballot design or machine error, he said many people simply just left the Senate race section blank.
“I think it is the voter,” he said. “It’s normal. It’s a normal process people don’t always vote for what’s on the ballot.”
On Friday, volunteers only did the hand recount of the Senate race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson
The hand recount began around 8:00 a.m. after some training.
They wrapped up a short time later, around 10:15 a.m., and the volunteers were sent home. Those ballots have to be reviewed by the canvassing board before anything is finalized.
The deadline is noon Sunday.
The Senate race had a lot of attention outside of the Supervisor of Elections Office, as well.
“It was very clear that many people didn’t vote for Senator,” says Ronna McDaniel, Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “They left that part empty, and Bill Nelson needs to concede graciously so our country can move on and Rick Scott can be seated as the senator from Florida.”
Republican groups gathered since the early morning hours, playing music and holding signs.
“This is for the sole purpose of seeing Donald Trump re-elected in 2020, so we need to have as many hands on deck as possible,” says Chris Cox, president of the group “Bikers for Trump.”
This manual recount comes just a day after the machine recount results were rejected by the state, when they were submitted two minutes after the 3:00 p.m. deadline. Now, the initial results submitted last Saturday will be considered the official numbers.
The people outside were, of course pushing for their candidate, but they say they also want to ensure fairness and transparency for any election in Broward County.
“We don’t want to chip away at the very foundation of this country, and if the citizens and the Floridians feel like they can come here collectively and vote and have their voice heard, they may not be showing up at the polls next time,” says Cox.
The volunteers will recount the Agriculture Commissioner ballots Saturday. Election workers say they need to have the canvassing board review the results and finish the Senate race before moving on to recounting the next.
The manual recounts are mandated by state law if two candidates are within a quarter of a percentage point after a machine recount. The machine recount showed Gov. Scott, a Republican, with a lead of 12,600 votes or 0.15 percent over Democratic incumbent Nelson, triggering the manual recount.
The machine recount of the Florida governor’s race confirmed Republican Ron DeSantis’ victory over Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points, or nearly 34,000 votes.