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Florida county forced to restart recount after machine malfunction

By
Daniel Uria
Broward County election workers check early voting ballots during a machine recount for both the governor and senate races. Elsewhere, in Palm Beach County, ballot-counting machines malfunctioned, forcing workers to restart their recount. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Broward County election workers check early voting ballots during a machine recount for both the governor and senate races. Elsewhere, in Palm Beach County, ballot-counting machines malfunctioned, forcing workers to restart their recount. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Florida's Palm Beach County was forced to restart its recount of about 175,000 early votes after its ballot-counting machines malfunctioned Tuesday.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the decades-old machines overheated and gave incorrect totals, resulting in the loss of a day of work with Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline for the machine recount looming, The Miami Herald reported.

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"We're disappointed by the mechanical problems that are going to cause a further delay in the recount," Bucher said. "It became evident through the vigorous pace of counting that the machines used for the recount were starting to get stressed."

Earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a notice to move a case seeking to extend the deadline to federal court.

RELATED Judge rejects Scott's request to impound voting machines in Florida recount

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled in favor of lifting the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline in Palm Beach County and giving county elections officials until Nov. 27 to complete their recounts, in lawsuit filed by Democratic Florida House District 89 candidate Jim Bonfiglio, but the ruling was nullified as Detzner's notice was filed hours earlier.

"She was writing the order when the removal petition was filed. Since the order was not put in writing, it was not effective," said Bonfiglio, who trails Republican Mike Caruso by 37 votes.

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U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave attorneys for Detzner until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit briefs on why an extension shouldn't be granted.

RELATED Recounts ordered in Florida elections for senator, governor

Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who trails Gov. Rick Scott by 12,100 votes in the Senate race, also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee seeking to allow all elections supervisors in the state more time for a recount.

The recounts would determine Nelson's race, the governor's race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, the race for agriculture and consumer services commissioner and a handful of state Congressional races.

Nelson's lawsuit states the deadlines "impose a severe burden -- disenfranchisement -- on the right to vote of the voters who cast ballots that have thus far been improperly rejected and will only be counted accurately if both a machine and manual recount are complete."

RELATED Judge rules in favor of Florida Gov. Rick Scott over voting information

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said Tuesday she was considering not running for re-election in 2020 after facing criticism over recounts in the county.

When asked about whether she would run again in 2020, Snipes told reporters she hasn't "finalized that," as she faces pressure to resign after 15 years in the position, Florida's The Sun Sentinel reported.

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"I'll just check with my family they'll tell me what I'm doing," Snipes told reporters of her prospects for 2020.

Snipes' comments came after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed her to the position in 2003 after dismissing her predecessor Miriam Oliphant, called for her removal in a Twitter post Monday.

"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," Bush wrote.

Snipes, 75, said Bush's comments were "his opinion," adding it may indeed be time for her to step away from the position.

"He did post me here for a year and then I liked it and so I ran and I was re-elected four times. But it is time to move on ... I think I have served the purpose that I came here for, which was to provide a credible election product for our members," she said Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott, whose Senate race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is part of the ongoing recounts, was asked why he didn't remove Snipes in May after a judge ruled she illegally destroyed ballots from the 2016 Democratic primary election.

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"Many supervisors' offices have various types of incidents to occur," Scott said. "I don't know why we get a bigger spotlight than some."

Broward Supervisor of Elections Attorney Lisa Crawford said the county's election department began recounting early votes Tuesday morning.

"We have begun counting early votes," Crawford said. "Then they'll pick up on some of the other sorting that needs to be done."

Broward's elections operations coordinator, Fred Bellis, said he still had full confidence the county would finish the recount by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline.

"There hasn't been a deadline that we've missed," Snipes said.

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