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Broward gives a glimpse as vote-by-mail ballots are counted

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The Broward County Supervisor of Elections' Lauderhill branch office gave a window into democracy in motion Wednesday, with mail-in ballots already being counted.

As part of the process, a three-member canvassing board tediously reviews vote-by-mail ballots that have potential discrepancies. Representatives from both political parties weigh-in — in one case of a ballot with a scribble, a 2-1 decision was made that a voter’s intent was a vote for Joe Biden.

“We’ve received about 170,000 [ballots], approximately. It’s a big number,” Broward elections supervisor Peter Antonacci said. “What you see right now is pretty orderly ... and we will continue to approach things in an orderly basis.”

While the mail-in ballots are counted as they are received, results are not tabulated until after polling places close at 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Antonacci said that at that point they are electronically tallied.

Officials offered an opportunity Wednesday to view the process in a county with a recent history of election issues. Embattled former elections supervisor Brenda Snipes became a lightning rod for frustrated voters during a documented series of missteps, including a ballot recounting fiasco two years ago.

An April audit found the November 2018 election in Broward County was “not efficiently and effectively conducted.” Issues included backlogs in “processing and tabulating” vote-by-mail ballots, which delayed election results.

Today, with a record number of mail-in ballots anticipated amid the coronavirus pandemic, Broward’s new elections supervisor Antonacci is working to restore public trust.

“We are trying to keep things pretty tight,” he said, “while being as transparent as possible.”

Early voting starts Monday, and Antonacci said that starting then, “every early voting site will have a drop-off box” for mail-in ballots for “two consecutive weeks until the Sunday before the election.”

He also said voters are more than welcome to drop them off at Broward post office locations and that “so far 90% of Broward’s 170,000 ballots” came through a post office.

He is expecting that 60% of all votes cast this election will be vote-by-mail, with the other 40% at the polls during either early voting or on Election Day.

The Sunday before Election Day expected to be the early voting day with the highest turnout.

When asked what will be done if people walk into a polling site without a mask, Antonacci said there is an ordinance and he will rely on people’s “common sense and good faith.”

“Most people are good people,” he said, “and they will abide by the law.”

Broward has been budgeting for a 75% turnout for this election. The previous record was a 71% turnout in 2016, Antonacci said.

If you still have a mail-in ballot on Election Day, you can drop it off at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections branch office in the Lauderhill Mall (1501 NW 40th Avenue) or at the Supervisor of Elections office in downtown Fort Lauderdale (115 S. Andrews Ave. Room #102).

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