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Supervisors of elections say early voting helped to prevent complications

DORAL, Fla. – The supervisors of elections in Miami-Dade and Broward counties said on Wednesday that Election Day went off without a hitch. Florida’s history had forced them to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Both Peter Antonacci, the Broward County supervisor of elections, and Christina White, the Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections, talked to reporters during separate news conferences.

"I think people were tired of being made the fool of,” Antonacci said referring to South Florida’s history of recounts.

Antonacci and White said this time they had the resources they needed to swiftly count the votes of the two most populous counties in the swing state. They also both celebrated that the majority of the voters decided to vote by mail and vote early during the coronavirus pandemic.

The contested race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden raised fears. The 2000 Florida recount is often used as an example of how chaotic the electoral process can become. In 2003, former Gov. Jeb Bush fired Miriam Oliphant, the supervisor of elections in Broward, after she was accused of mismanagement and incompetence.

Joe Scott, Broward’s newly elected supervisor of elections, said that he decided to run after what happened with Brenda Snipes, Broward’s former supervisor of elections. In 2018, Snipes was criticized when ballots were misplaced during a recount. Former Gov. Rick Scott fired Snipes after she resigned.

“The idea is to come in to take the lessons learned that we could get from what things that Pete Antonacci changed that went well, what didn’t go well, and what we can change to make it even better next time," Scott said. "I think we have to continue building on our cybersecurity efforts. Even though they’ve taken some steps, I know there are some more steps that need to be taken.”

Voter habits can also contribute to the process. In Miami-Dade, White said early voting “helped tremendously” with the estimated 1,165,000 ballots from about 75% of registered voters. This year, there was also a scare at a U.S. Post Office facility in Miami-Dade’s Princeton area.

Investigators did a sweep at several facilities in South Florida to make sure that all of the ballots had made it to the supervisor of elections' offices. White said U.S. Post Office personnel gave her every assurance that they had delivered every ballot that was destined for the Miami-Dade office in Doral.

FILE - An election worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots at the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections in Doral, Fla., on Oct, 26, 2020. Television networks are adding experts in election law to their election night coverage teams so they're prepared to explain legal challenges or irregularities that come up during the vote. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

White said Miami-Dade’s official results of the Tuesday election won’t be announced until Nov. 13 since overseas voters still have 10 days to cast their ballots.

“The only things that are pending at this point are provisional ballots and those people who are still able to cure their vote-by-mail ballots,” White said, adding “That’s going to be a very small percentage overall.”

Voters with vote-by-mail ballots that were not accepted have until 5 p.m. on Thursday to “curate their ballots.” White said there will be meetings on Thursday and Friday to review provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots that still haven’t been accepted. The first set of unofficial results in Miami-Dade, she said, will be published on Friday.

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2020, file photo a ballot scanning machine is shown during a Logic and Accuracy Test of voting equipment that will be used in the general election on Nov. 3, at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Doral, Fla. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, which President Donald Trump signed into existence in 2018, is working with other parts of the government to safeguard an election in the middle of a pandemic. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

White said that when that is done she has a recount pending in the Senate District 37 race between Republican Ileana Garcia and Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat. Garcia, the founder of Latinos for Trump, leads Rodríguez by 21 votes — which is within the 0.5%. required to trigger an automatic recount. White said the recount should start early next week.

“We will retrieve all ballots for that district. We will read them to the tabulators again and attribute votes to either one of those candidates," White said.

White said elections personnel will be looking for additional votes that may have been picked up through people circling a candidate or bubbling two candidates. She said the deadline to complete the recount is Nov. 12.

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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. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.