State Politics

Election recount continues in Manatee County after forced restart

Tuesday’s recount underway in Manatee

After a human error forced a restart of the recount Monday, Tuesday's recount starts smoothly.
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After a human error forced a restart of the recount Monday, Tuesday's recount starts smoothly.

The whirring of vote tabulation machines started up again Tuesday morning as the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office continued recounting ballots from the Nov. 6 general election.

Just after 8 a.m. Tuesday, Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett’s staff picked up where they left off Monday night.

Tuesday morning’s proceedings drew a smaller crowd than Monday, with fewer than 10 observers.

Bennett said they completed re-running the early voting ballots and started running some of the approximately 40,000 vote-by-mail ballots Monday and stayed until about 9:30 p.m.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, they were about three-quarters of the way through the vote-by-mail ballots. Bennett said he expected to finish recounting those remaining ballots Tuesday night.

The vote-by-mail ballots take longer to run through the machines, he said, because of the bends and folds in the paper that create jams in the machines.

Ballots cast on Election Day will be the last to be counted on Wednesday. Provisional ballots already have been counted.

“We’re expecting to be done sometime (Wednesday) afternoon, but we’re allowing Thursday just in case,” Bennett said.

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A statewide recount was ordered by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Saturday for the U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner races.

In Manatee County, Monday’s recount process started with early voting ballots, but came to a sudden halt after an issue was discovered that afternoon.

After about 43,000 ballots were recounted, Bennett’s staff was forced to start from scratch around 2:30 p.m. when it was noticed that a button was not properly pressed on a counting machine.

Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.

The machine counted either overvotes, which is when a ballot has more than the maximum number of selections allowed, or the undervotes, Bennett said. The machines were retested and certified back to zero before the recount started for a second time.

There will also be at least one manual recount after the machine recount is complete.

Bennett said it was a “simple mistake.”

The recount process that took about six hours before the problem was discovered was cut to about four hours after restarting, said County Judge Mark Singer, who is on the canvassing board with Bennett and Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Priscilla Trace.

Bennett said he has about 10 to 12 staff members working on the recount and the process was going “real good” on Tuesday.

“We’ve got an unbelievable staff here in Manatee County. Our canvassing board works extremely well together. We’ve got a great team there. So it’s really going quite well,” Bennett said.

The Canvassing Board convenes at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office to recount ballots Monday morning.