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Experts Say Issues Of 2000 Election Recount Unlikely To Repeat Itself

Electoral College History
Alan Diaz
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2000, file photo, Broward County, Fla. canvassing board member Judge Robert Rosenberg uses a magnifying glass to examine a disputed ballot at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College to ensure a well-informed, geographically diverse group of electors would choose the nation’s presidents. That sounds rational and sometimes it even works. But the history of the Electoral College also includes tales of tie votes, hanging chad, conniving politicians and intrigue.

There’s been record voter turnout across the states so far in the presidential election. More than 4.7 million ballots have already been cast in Florida with around ten days to go. The current pace is expected to break records for the highest voter turnout in the state’s history. Elections experts have been assuring voters that this won’t be a repeat of the 2000 presidential election which ended with lawsuits and recounts.

Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard represented President George Bush during the recount of 2000. Richard says changes made to the state’s election process should make even a close race go more smoothly.

“We’ve had four presidential elections since 2000 with no problems. Now when I say with no problems, elections are a messy business and there are always localized problems which are sometimes blown out of proportion," said Richard. "But we’ve had no significant, no real problems in those four elections.”

Richard sites that one of the largest problems in that election was the punch card ballot design that was used.

The punch-card ballots were problematic because you punched a little card out and the issue was you had hanging chads and pregnant chads," said Richard. "And also as they were run through the machine they would lose the chads just because the operation of the machines.

That ballot design is no longer used.

"I don’t think anybody uses it anymore. Everybody to my knowledge uses the ballot where you have little bubbles and you color them in with a pen or a pencil and they’ve proved to be very reliable," said Richard.

Richard says the state legislature has also fixed the election system when it comes to recounts.

"We only allow the challenge if there is a certain narrow difference in the percentage of the vote and then there’s just a machine recount again," said Richard.

Statutes now only allow recounts if the margin of victory is within .5% of the total votes in a race. While polls show the race could be that close Richard believes a recount wouldn’t cause the same issues it did in 2000. He says while there have been speculations that problems will occur he thinks that speculation has no real basis.

"One of them of course is the issue of fraud. This has been largely a construct created by President Trump as you’ve heard many, many times and your own media outlets have probably stated we have no history of that kind of fraud," said Richard. "We have a history of occasional local fraud but it would almost impossible to effect a national election by actual fraud because this county is too big."

Richard says what’s most likely to happen is a delay in votes being tallied leading to an illusion that one candidate has a large lead over the other. He says early results will likely favor Republicans who currently have 140,000 more ballots cast at precincts than Democrats. Democrats are outpacing Republicans in vote-by-mail by 550,000. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles says the early voting numbers are going to be the first ones complete.

"On the night before the election, we have to upload to the results database the early voting totals and those early voting totals will be 100%," said Cowles.

Cowles says the winner likely won’t be decided election night.

"On election night everything is unofficial because we have to go through and verify the results from the precincts and all. Then we also have ballots that still have to be counted," said Cowles.

Voters using provisional ballots have until 5 pm the Thursday after the election to submit proof that their ballot should be counted. That also goes for anyone needing to fix their vote by mail ballot in the case their signature did not match what was on the record.

The electoral college does not certify the results until November 15th. So between November 3rd and then any statewide result broadcast is unofficial.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.