Local Officials Optimistic About Smooth Recount



As Florida goes through its first statewide recount since 2000, elections officials in Sarasota and Manatee remain hopeful of meeting a Thursday deadline without catastrophe. Thus far, party leaders in the region have faith that will occur as well.

“The recount is going,” says Mike Bennett, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections. He says that, after a problem, officials realized a voting machine was failing sort undervotes, and the project had to be restarted hours into the process. “We will be done by Thursday at 3pm. There’s little glitches here or there,” Bennett said. 

Despite the early trip-up, Manatee Democratic Chairwoman Sheryl Wilson says elections officials identified and fixed the problems, and so far she sees things moving relatively well. “As far as the effort so far, it’s been good,” Wilson says. “It’s clicking along.”

In Sarasota County, Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner has made sure machines are all tested and calibrated for the recount. “The recount has been going smoothly,” he says. “We will continue from 9 to 5 each day, as needed to complete.” But when asked when everything will finish up in Sarasota, Turner only promises “before the deadline.”

Christian Ziegler, Sarasota County Republican state committeeman, expects little fighting on the Gulf Coast. “Sarasota County is fortunate to have Ron Turner at the helm. He is a great Supervisor of Elections who is beloved by both political parties and runs a tight ship,” he says.

That’s in contrast to the suddenly scrutinized jobs being done in counties like Broward and Palm Beach, where late tabulations over the past week resulted in margins in three statewide races shrinking from apparently clear Republican wins to tight results requiring a recount.

In a year with five hotly contested statewide contests, three of the races came down to margins so small they triggered a machine recount. For U.S. Senate, Republican Rick Scott leads Democrat Bill Nelson by 12,562. For Governor, Republican Ron DeSantis topped Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684. And for Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried held a 5,326-vote edge over Republican Matt Caldwell.

Florida law requires recounts when margins fall below 0.5 percent. A hand recount will take place if after the machine recount, the margin remains below 0.25 percent, a likely outcome in the Senate and Agriculture Commissioner races.

Wilson, an election observer in Manatee, says her focus in the recount will simply be on making sure no legal votes get left uncounted. She was distressed at reports some voters went to wrong precincts on Election Day but didn’t fill out provisional ballots. “We want to say your vote matters and your vote ought to count,” she says.

Ziegler, who helped organize volunteers to watch elections statewide, says his role as an observer in Sarasota is just to provide a check on the credibility of the count. “When it comes to elections,” he says, “you can trust, but you must always verify. That’s what this recount is about.”

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