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Capital Report: This Election, It Isn't Florida Delaying A Final Result

Election 2020 Florida
Wilfredo Lee/AP
/
AP
In this Nov. 3, 2020, photo, a worker scans and tabulate ballots at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Doral, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The presidential election has not yet been decided. Ballot counting is still underway in some states and litigation is stacking up in the courts days after election night. But this time, it wasn’t Florida holding up the process, and that hasn’t been the case in years past.

The day following election night, Governor Ron DeSantis praised Florida for the way the state ran its election. DeSantis says elections supervisors in the state ran a process that “inspires confidence.”

“I think the contrast between how a tough battleground state like Florida handled the election, versus what we’re seeing in some of these other states – I think it’s dramatic,” DeSantis told media.

President Donald Trump won Florida with more than 51 percent of the vote, defying polls that had Democratic challenger Joe Biden ahead in the state in the run up to election night.

That means Barry Richard’s prediction was correct – Richard was part of the legal team representing former president George W. Bush in 2000, when the presidential election hinged on a recount in Florida.

“This will not be a repeat of 2000. Second, I don’t anticipate any serious problems this year here in Florida,” Barry said, adding, “and probably in any states” – which thus far has proven incorrect.

During the 2000 election Tallahassee became the center of the nation’s focus, with media from the U.S. and across the globe descending on the Capital City to await a final result.

Richard says Florida’s presidential elections since then have fared better. That excludes the 2018 election in Florida, which included a recount in the senatorial race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson that lasted 12 days.

“We’ve had four presidential elections since 2000 with no problems,” Richard said in the days leading up to Tuesday. “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. But we’ve had no significant, no real problems in those four elections.”

Richard credits the state legislature, in part, for making changes to the recount system.

“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,” Richard explained.

Mark Earley is Leon County’s supervisor of elections. He became supervisor in 2016, at the time of the last presidential election – but has been with the elections office since 1986. He’s seen more than a few elections go well, and some not so well.

But this year, Earley was pleased with how the process played out.

“I think things have gone as well, if not better, than we ever expected,” Earley said. “It’s been a great relief to see that happening, frankly, because we were truly planning for all kinds of bad scenarios. Again, there’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there, that’s still a big problem. But I want voters to feel secure that we are counting their ballots, we’re doing it very securely.”

On the Monday before election day, Earley said there had been almost no tension at the polls, locally, despite some expressing fear at the potential for chaos. He credited people for making a peaceful election process a priority.

“We’ve had no incidents of any note – just literally one or two isolated incidents where one voter and another who are maybe advocates for two different candidates are getting a little heated,” Earley said. “But that’s nothing out of the ordinary at all, probably a little bit lower than what we normally see. Because I think everybody’s really trying to make it a calm endeavor.”

By-and-large the rest of Florida’s counties had a similarly smooth election. Secretary of State Laurel Lee gave an update on election day:

“The isolated challenges that I described earlier today occurred in a handful of precincts out of nearly six thousand,” Lee said. “What that tells us is that Florida Supervisors of Election and their staff were prepared, ready, and equipped to meet whatever challenges came their way today.”

More than 11 million Florida voters cast ballots in the presidential election.