South Florida is always hot, and as tensions flare during recounts required due to three close statewide elections, the temperatures are rising even more than usual.
But in Palm Beach County things are REALLY heating up as the county’s ballot-counting machines overheated yesterday, giving incorrect vote totals.
Apparently the machines are very old, so mechanical problems are not unexpected. But now the county must restart the recount of over 175,000 early votes, according to Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
Bucher also reported on Tuesday night that her department has flown in qualified mechanics who will repair the machines and get them operational this morning, if possible.
“We’re disappointed by the mechanical problems that are going to cause a further delay in the recount,” Bucher told reporters yesterday. “It became evident through the vigorous pace of counting that the machines used for the recount were starting to get stressed.”
She could have added that in addition to the machines, many people are getting stressed also. The voting machine breakdowns have caused the loss of more than an entire day’s work in recounting. Which is a serious matter considering that the deadline for the machine recount ends tomorrow.
On that point, however, Bucher had already disclosed on Monday that her office wouldn’t be able to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline imposed by state law.
Florida election officials had announced on Saturday that the state’s 67 counties would have to do machine recounts of over 8.1 million ballots cast statewide during the midterm elections. The machine recounts are mandatory because the results in three statewide elections — U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — were under the 0.5 percentage point threshold that triggers the mandatory recount.
Bucher’s case asking for a deadline extension in Palm Beach County was moved to federal court Tuesday, following a motion by attorneys for Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Detzner has increasingly found himself in the middle of several partisan battles as both sides have claimed foul play during the ballot counting process. And even President Donald Trump has weighed in, through a series of inflammatory tweets he has been making since election day.
The presiding Circuit Judge, Karen Gievers, had issued a ruling saying she would grant an extension for Palm Beach County until November 20. She based her ruling on her assessment that the county could not possibly meet the Thursday deadline with its eight machines.
But Republican Secretary of State Detzner did not like that answer so he had his attorneys file a motion to move the case before she could formally issue her order in writing.
If Palm Beach County is not able to finish the machine recount, it has to submit the original vote count with an explanation for why it failed to meet the deadline, according to Florida laws governing recounts.
The Florida recounts are taking place in a highly charged atmosphere, and the last thing anyone needed was a mechanical breakdown of voting machines. It appear that unless the federal judge extends the deadline past tomorrow for Palm Beach County that the completion of the required recount is not likely to occur.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.