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Four Local Races In Broward Headed To Recounts That Will Stretch Into Next Week

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Caitie Switalski Muñoz
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WLRN
The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office in Lauderhill, this image taken Tuesday, is where any recounts will take place, beginning over the weekend.

Counting went smoothly in Broward County but razor-thin margins between candidates in one county race, and some municipal races, mean there's still recount work ahead.

The canvassing board in Broward County is moving ahead with plans for recounts in several local elections.

The board, which reviews any disputed ballots and oversees recounts, reconvened Thursday afternoon to examine several hundred provisional ballots and discuss close margins in four races.

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Florida law triggers an automatic recount in a race if the margin is less than half a percent. If the margin between two candidates falls below a quarter of a percent, then manual recounts are required.

That's happened in a few races in Broward: One countywide judicial race between Dennis Daniel Bailey and George Odom Jr. is so close that it falls under that quarter of a percent margin. Right now, it's separated by 0.14%.

And in a Hallandale Beach city commission race, for seat 3, just about 10 votes separate frontrunners Anabelle Lima-Taub and Cynthia Cabrera.

The town of Davie has one ballot question, ballot question number 5, that is extremely close. In the first unofficial count, 49.97% of voters said 'yes' and 50.03% voted 'no.' The ballot measure would repeal a section of language from the town charter that addresses "the sale of personal property, real property, and the purchase of real property."

The town council has stated it intends to adopt an ordinance regarding the sale of personal property, real property and purchase of real property to coincide with Florida Statutes and replace the old section.

In Dania Beach, the city commission race between the candidates in third and fourth place needs to be recounted. That's because there were three city commission seats available and people could cast votes for three people on one list of six total candidates. That race is separated by enough of a margin that it's not likely to require a manual recount by hand after next Tuesday's machine recount is expected to finish.

The recount process — machine recounts first then hand recounts — will begin with logic and accuracy testing for the machines on Friday, elections officials announced.

Broward's Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci said the counting staff has a challenge ahead of them.

"We have a deadline, we have to met our deadline. The deadline, unfortunately, includes counting 900,000 ballots — running them through the machine, so it's a lot of work," he said.

About 40 to 50 elections staff at a time will be on hand at a time during the machine recounts, or 100 during a double shift. About 200 elections staff will be needed to do the manual recounts by hand, which are planned to begin later next week. The county is supplying about half of that staff, according to Antonacci.

The recounts will begin just as a storm named Eta — which weakened from hurricane strength to a tropical depression but is expected to be upgraded to a tropical storm — looks to beat rain down on South Florida starting this weekend, and possibly into early next week.

The latest advisory from The National Weather Service anticipates the storm dumping up to 15 inches of rain on the Florida Keys, and up to 10 inches of rain in south Miami-Dade County.

The Broward Supervisor of Elections Office has built in next Saturday, Nov. 14, as a sort of buffer day to finish hand recounts in case the storm causes any delays.

The county elections office deadline to certify all election results is next Sunday, Nov. 15, and — for now — the office plans to certify the results on Nov. 14.

In addition to planning the recount process, the canvassing board — which this election cycle consists of Antonacci, County Judge Kenneth Gottlieb, and County Commissioner Michael Udine — also examined batches of provisional ballots and the last disputed ballots.

There were 141 people in Broward County who went to the polls and voted with provisional ballots. Except, they weren't registered to vote. Another 73 people went to vote early in Broward who were also not registered to vote. The canvassing board rejected those ballots Thursday.

And 22 people tried to vote twice in Broward, once with a counted vote-by-mail ballot and then again at the polls. Six people went to vote early in person, then tried to vote again on Election Day in Broward and were also caught. The canvassing board rejected that batch of ballots Thursday.

Beyond those issues, there were seven Broward voters who correctly filled out their ballots but died after mailing in their ballots. As long as they were sent in before the voter's death — they have to be counted per Florida law, and the canvassing board accepted those ballots.

After Thursday's ballots were reviewed, Antonacci estimated about 200 ballots will get added to the county's total count.

Even with close local races going to recounts in Broward, Antonacci was pleased things for this election ran — at least organizationally — much more smoothly than they did for the 2018 midterm election.

"I've been blessed with a very good staff and everybody's had shoulder to the wheel for the last three months, ever since the August primary and things have worked out really well," he said.

Antonacci wouldn't say if there are systems he's put into place that he hopes the next elections supervisor, Democrat Joe Scott, will keep, however he did add that "I wish him very well."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, currently leads the WLRN Newsroom as Interim Managing Editor. Prior to transitioning to leadership from production, Caitie reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.