Judicial Watch Legal Team Back in South Florida Monitoring Election Recount
Nearly two decades after conducting a thorough Florida recount in a heated presidential contest, Judicial Watch is back in Broward and Palm Beach counties monitoring the midterm election fiasco. A legal and investigative team is closely watching the machine recount, which could be followed by a manual recount that could drag the spectacle out into the weekend. Florida law requires a machine recount when the vote margin in a race is less than 0.5 % and that occurred in three key statewide races—for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture secretary. If results from the machine recount show a 0.25% margin or less, a hand recount will ensue for undervotes and overvotes. An undervote occurs when no candidate is marked in a race. An overvote marks more than one candidate on the same ballot in the same race.
Back in 2000 Judicial Watch, with the help of a highly reputable auditing firm, executed complete recounts in the disputed counties of Collier, Hillsborough, Indian River, Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Sarasota as well as the highly contested counties of Broward and Palm Beach. It was a tight presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore and Judicial Watch’s recount proved that Bush clearly won Florida and thus the presidency. Judicial Watch has since launched a national Election Integrity Project to clean up voter rolls. Robert Popper, a former Justice Department deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, is the program’s director and his team is on the ground in south Florida.
In the current debacle, all 67 counties are supposed to complete the machine recount by 3 p.m. on Thursday, a deadline set by the Florida Department of State. However, Palm Beach County Election Supervisor Susan Bucher said earlier in the week that would not be possible and a Tallahassee judge ordered the recount in Palm Beach County extended five additional days to November 20. Counties that don’t meet the recount deadline are supposed to keep the originally reported results on file. In the current recount, high-speed tabulating machines recheck all ballots against the original tallies. Many counties have completed the process. Palm Beach County, Florida’s third largest, has about 600,000 ballots to count and Bucher says outdated machines aren’t up to the task to meet the deadline even with staff working around the clock.
In other counties things are going pretty smoothly, including in the state’s largest, Miami-Dade, and results are expected to trickle in on time. The epicenter of the action is Broward, led by a famously incompetent election supervisor long under fire. Her name is Brenda Snipes and former Governor Jeb Bush appointed her in 2003 after getting rid of her equally inept predecessor, Miriam Oliphant, for severe mismanagement. In 2002 Judicial Watch investigated Oliphant for the botched Florida primaries in which her office lost hundreds of absentee ballots that were later found in a filing cabinet. The Florida Elections Commission fined Oliphant $10,000 for willfully neglecting her duties and causing dozens of polls to open late and close early during the 2002 gubernatorial primaries.
Snipes has proven to be just as bad, though voters have reelected her despite her well-documented transgressions in several lower-profile elections. In an editorial this week, Broward County’s largest newspaper calls for Snipes’ ouster, calling her incompetent and questioning why despite her record of poor performance she keeps getting reelected. Bush took to social media to blast the election supervisor he appointed, writing: “There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process. Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts.”