Ballots from Election Day now being recounted in Manatee County
The final day of the machine recount of Manatee County votes started with the last section of votes to be counted — Election Day ballots. Even with one high-speed tabulation machine down, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett and staff finished the recount Wednesday night, well before a deadline of 3 p.m. Thursday.
The last ballot was run at 8:53 p.m. and the results were uploaded to the Secretary of State’s office for certification.
Ballots counted in the recount were 164,827 compared to 164,804 on Election Day.
In the three races where a machine recount was ordered, the results were as follows in Manatee County:
In the race for U.S. Senate, Rick Scott received 94,336 votes (compared with 94,324 on Election Day), and Bill Nelson received 68,808 votes (compared with 68,795 on Election Day). That’s a net gain of one vote for Nelson.
In the race for Florida governor, Ron Desantis received 93,217 (compared with 93,206 on Election Day), and Andrew Gillum received 67,588 votes (compared with 67,574 on Election Day). That’s a net gain of three votes for Gillum.
In the race for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Matt Caldwell received 91,177 votes (compared with 91,159 on Election Day), and Nikki Fried received 69,051 votes (compared with 69,034 on Election Day). That’s a net gain of one vote Caldwell.
The results will be posted on the Supervisor of Elections website soon.
One of two high-speed tabulation machines was shut down around 9 a.m. Wednesday. A technician was called and arrived about two hours later from the Fort Myers area, but the machine could not be immediately repaired.
Votes were run through the other machine throughout the day.
Bennett said they recounted about 10 percent of votes cast on Election Day on Tuesday night. By Wednesday afternoon, they were more than halfway through the bunch with about 27,000 ballots left to recount.
Bennett said the process usually goes faster with vote-by-mail ballots because the Election Day ballots are flat, whereas the vote-by-mail ballots have creases and folds that caused the machines to jam occasionally. All jams were quickly fixed.
Vote-by-mail, early voting and provisional ballots had already been recounted.
The recount picked up Wednesday at the Supervisor of Elections office just after 8 a.m. with members of the canvassing board certifying the seals on boxes that contained ballots. The boxes were in the machines that voters feed their ballots through on Election Day.
They were sealed Election Day. On Wednesday, they were placed, still sealed, onto tables in the office lobby for canvassing board members to inspect.
Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, who filled in Wednesday on the canvassing board for commission chairwoman Priscilla Trace, and Manatee County Judge Mark Singer verified the seal numbers on the boxes matched those recorded on election night.
Once the boxes were inside the tabulation room, the seals were broken and the ballots were run through the tabulation machines.
The statewide recount was ordered for the U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner races Saturday by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
On Monday, a human error mishap with the machine’s programming forced them to start the recount over. A machine was counting either overvotes or undervotes due to a button not being properly selected. About 43,000 ballots had been counted in the five hours of work before the issue was noticed.
Overvotes occur when a ballot has more than the maximum number of selections allowed, which can happen with just the slightest mark on a ballot. Undervotes are when a ballot has fewer than allowed selections made.
Bennett expects a manual recount will be ordered in at least one race. Once the order is given, his staff will begin to tabulate the votes that could not be counted by the machines and were set aside for the manual recount. Those include ballots with overvotes and undervotes.
As of Wednesday, he expected about 8,000 ballots will need to be manually recounted. The process will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday.
The Manatee County ballots will be examined by 10 teams, each made up of at least one Democrat and at least one Republican.
If they cannot clearly decide on the voter’s intent, the ballot will be passed to the canvassing board, comprised of Bennett, Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Priscilla Trace and Manatee County Judge Mark Singer to make that determination.
Representatives of specific candidates will be invited to watch the process.
The elections office has also received 25 to 30 more overseas ballots; they will be counted at 5 p.m. Friday.