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A first: Republicans request to inspect Broward vote-by-mail ballots pre-election

Republicans ask to review mail-in-ballots in Broward County before election
Republicans ask to review mail-in-ballots in Broward County before election

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Candidates and political parties were given the opportunity to review 15 randomly selected vote-by-mail ballot envelopes to compare signatures Friday.

Typically, the law allows ballot envelopes to be inspected, but this was more than an inspection as Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci allowed both Democratic and Republican parties to compare signatures on file with the signatures on ballots.

"I was asked if there could be an inspection – an additional inspection of signatures. I said, ‘Of course,’ " Antonacci said.

The ballots were randomly picked by representatives for the Republicans with 15 of them placed on a table. Local 10 was invited to examine them, too.

Atonacci pulled the 15 random ballots, made copies of the envelopes and their signature cards, and spread them out on a table. All 15 ballots and signature cards matched.

Attorneys for the Democrats said this request is not legal.

“It’s not authorized by statute. It’s not been done anywhere in Florida, and to my knowledge, it’s not been done any where in the country,” Chuck Lichtman, an attorney for the Florida Democratic party said.

Usually candidates and parties have been able to observe from a distance the canvassing board comparing signatures post-election.

Antonacci, who was appointed by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis told Local 10 that this is the first time this has been done, but added that it is within his purview.

“There are lots of ways to approach it, and this way, you show the public how we do it is a good thing. I believe in openness,” Antonacci said.

“There is nothing particularly complicated about it,” Antonacci added, “and trying to make it into something complicated is a disservice.”

Representatives for the Republican party at the election office Friday did not want to explain to Local 10 why they made the request.

“Kudos in a sense to Supervisor Antonacci today because it’s going to show as he had hoped transparency and that everyone’s vote will get counted,” Lichtman said.

The show-and-tell took place at the Voting Equipment Center in Lauderhill.

Another first in Broward County? An agreement between the Supervisor of Elections and the Broward Sheriff’s Office that authorizes BSO and other local police agencies to be on standby for any disruptive behavior at polling sites.

“That too has never been done in Florida and I’m happy to say that Broward is the first,” Antonacci said.

BSO Sherriff Gregory Tony said bullying and intimidation will not be tolerated at the polls.

“We will have none of that,” he said.

BE ELECTION READY: Check out Local 10.com’s Complete Vote 2020 Guide

CHECK OUT EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS: Early Voting Begins Monday. See the locations.

WATCH THE LOCAL 10 ELECTION SPECIAL: Ready, Set, Vote on Sunday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.