LAUDERHILL, Fla. - One week after the general election, Broward County election officials found nearly 1,000 ballots, many which were absentee and filled out in person at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections' Office in Lauderhill during early voting.
"There's nothing that is hidden here. We're not keeping anything back so we can have a scandalous report," said Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes. "At some time, trust me, we want to get this election over."
Snipes and Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said the ballots, which were discovered Monday, had little impact on the close races for commission seats in Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach. A manual recount ended Tuesday afternoon in the Dania Beach race, where Chickie Brandimarte was declared the winner over C.K. "Mac" McElyea. Brandimarte won by 39 votes.
A swearing in ceremony for commissioners in Dania Beach was rescheduled for next Monday because of the recount.
In Hallandale Beach, Michelle Lazarow won by one vote after a manual recount was finished.
Only about two or three votes affected the race in Hallandale and none of the votes were in Dania Beach.
"I could see if we had some kind of situation where we had 17 ballots, let's just stick them in the corner and don't tell anybody about it. We don't operate like that," said Snipes.
The discovery led Snipes to defend her office and how her staff gathers and counts ballots.
"If the voters would rather that we sit back and relax and then clean-up, find ballots, then I think they would really be very upset," said Snipes. "And, I know they would like not to have their ballots categorized as found because they were lost. Found says to me something was lost -- they weren't lost."
"To find close to a thousand ballots so many days after the election, not only shakes people's confidence in the process but some observers are telling us shakes people's confidence in you as the head of this process," said Local 10's Christina Vazquez.
"I've run several elections here and this election was run no different than any other. I think the difference with this election is there was a close race between the two presidential candidates and there was pressure put on everyone, including our office, to get all the votes, count, count, count, count. So, you don't have an opportunity to check every bag that comes back, every box that comes back because you got to get what you got in hand and get it out of here," said Snipes.
Lieberman, who is a member of the canvassing board, wasn't satisfied with Snipes' explanation.
"A sweep probably would have been better done on Tuesday night to make sure all the ballots were accounted for here," said Lieberman. "I would like to see that process tightened up. There are more elections to come up."
Joseph Uscinski, a political science professor at the University of Miami, agreed.
"Given the enormity of the task in administering an election and counting the ballots, it should not come as a surprise, especially given that Florida is a swing state, that there have been some problems in both administering the elections and counting the ballots," said Uscinski. "After all of it is over, we should look back and come up with solutions to fixing specific problems."
Snipes said they were fortunate the ballots will be counted before their official final vote count is due to the state this Sunday as opposed to making the discovery after that deadline. She added that it's not uncommon to find ballots after Election Day.
Typically, the votes that are received between Election Day and the final vote count deadline come from military personnel and county residents living overseas.
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