Jacob Ogles, Author at Florida Politics

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

Other counties in Hurricane Michael’s path deny accepting electronic ballots

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen illegally accepted more than 140 electronic ballots on or before the Nov. 6 election, citing concerns that Hurricane Michael may have displaced voters.

But so far, three other North Florida elections chiefs in the Category 4 storm’s path have denied doing the same. And no officials besides Andersen have yet owned up to accepting ballots by fax or email.

Supervisors of Elections in Franklin, Washington and Leon counties have all denied circumventing the state’s electronic ballot laws, despite suffering damage from Michael, which made landfall on Oct. 10.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley confirmed he’d spoken with Bay County leaders about a plan to let some displaced voters cast ballots by email or fax, but he didn’t accept any ballots that way himself.

“The only ones we got that way were from military folks, which is a normal practice,” Earley said, “but I do think other counties might well have done that.”

In choosing to accept email and fax and email ballots from non-military voters, Anderson went against explicit instructions from Gov. Rick Scott, who issued an executive order granting officials some leeway in executing the election in counties affected by Hurricane Michael.

The Department of State today released a statement putting responsibility for the move on the county official.

“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, in a statement.

“Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”

Revell did not say whether the agency knew in advance that Andersen would allow voters to fax or email ballots.

Earley said he discussed the potential with Andersen of using the same protocol for confirming the legitimacy of military and overseas ballots to ensure voters displaced by Hurricane Michael would have their votes cast.

But in Leon County, the occasion to do that never arose.

Earley also worked with elections officials through the Panhandle to courier vote-by-mail votes, particularly those of first responders working outside their home counties, so that those responding to the hurricane didn’t forfeit their ballots.

He had no problem with Andersen accepting ballots by fax and email so long as the veracity of the ballots checked out.

“I understood the executive order was giving you lots of leeway,” Early said. “I’m not sure every possible set of circumstances was covered.

“But I don’t see a big problem with handling a displaced hurricane victim in a similar fashion to a military or overseas voter.”

Franklin County Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley told the Tampa Bay Times her office has accepted about 12 ballots via email or fax from overseas and military voters, which is allowed under the law.

Washington County Supervisor of Elections Carol Rudd similarly told the Times she did not accept any electronically transmitted votes from voters displaced by the storm, but did work to make sure first responders outside the county had ballots to mail to her elections office.

Rudd noted displaced voters were allowed by the executive order to have vote-by-mail ballots sent to a temporary address, which is normally prohibited.

Bay County supervisor unilaterally accepted votes by fax, email

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen confirmed to Florida Politics that his office accepted more than 140 vote-by-mail ballots by fax machine or email, despite an executive order explicitly prohibiting the practice.

“This office’s job is to ensure voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots,” Andersen explained.

The elections official confirmed his office spoke with a number of voters displaced by Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in his county on Oct. 10.

Andersen said more than 140 vote-by-mail ballots were cast, 10 of them via email and the rest by fax. The Bay County canvassing board approved of each ballot before it was included in the county vote.

NBC-7 WJHG last week reported a total of 147 ballots came in electronically. Any ballot that could not be verified and audited correctly, Andersen said, did not get tabulated.

The problem with counting these votes? An executive order signed by Gov. Rick Scott allowing flexibility for election supervisors did not allow for emailed or faxed ballots.

In fact, a media release sent out by Secretary of State Ken Detzner explicitly forbids the practice.

“Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order,” reads the release.

“In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues.”

The small number of votes might not make a difference but for three statewide recounts: U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner. Bay County already conducted a recount of its original tabulation of votes. In all three races, more than 70 percent of Bay County voters supported the Republican candidate.

Andersen said he had a protocol in place for the verification of military and overseas ballots, and felt that would be an appropriate procedure to use with voters displaced by the storm. He let Detzner’s office know his intentions, and did not wait for a reply.

“I never asked for approval,” he said. “I just told others what I was doing, along with other supervisors.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s chief elections officer was guarded about Andersen’s decision.

“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, in a statement.

“Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”

Andersen said Scott’s executive order was penned before the storm hit and its full devastation was known.

“The real story should be that little Bay County was able to get a greater voter turnout than in the last gubernatorial race, even given the fact we had a Category 4-plus hurricane hit,” he said.

His top priority through the process remained allowing as many people to vote as possible. And he stresses that typical paths of confirmation for votes could not be used in this election.

And he’s also dealt with outraged local voters who could not cast ballots. His office as of Friday received 229 vote-by-mail ballots that arrived after Election Day and by law cannot be counted. That, despite the fact the Postal Service remains impaired weeks after the storm.

Numerous requested mail-in ballots sent out before the election came back to the office as ‘undeliverable,’ no surprise considering Michael destroyed a multitude of Bay County homes and displaced thousands of voters.

Registration deadlines in the county got extended to accommodate the storm, but Andersen’s office had little way of letting voters know with virtually no TV broadcast available, phone service cut off for most of the region, and even 911 service down after the storm.

But Andersen also said an audit trail existed for each of the votes cast by fax or email, in the event a court orders the votes to be taken out of the count.

Andersen won’t advocate that route.

“Right now, everybody is in recount mode, but they should be careful,” he said. “The real goal … should be to make sure every vote counts, and they should be counted.”

Bay County accepted ballots through email—which state law doesn’t allow: report

Elections officials in Bay County, a Republican stronghold recently battered by Hurricane Michael, accepted votes via email.

The catch: That’s counter to state law.

NBC-7 WJHG interviewed Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen about how he dealt with voters displaced by Hurricane Michael.

Andersen said he worked with 147 voters who returned ballots by email using similar protocols to those used for military and overseas ballots to allow voters to sign an oath and verify their identities.

The county supervisor claims to NBC-7 he told Secretary of State Ken Detzner his intentions before Election Day.

“Anyone that feels in the devastation that we experienced and the categories or the limitations that we had on our citizens of Bay County, if you want to turn around and take these votes away from voters because it’s not the normal prescribed issue, I would just say you ought to be ashamed of yourselves because what we did is take care of voters,” Andersen told NBC-7.

“What we have is a signature for voters and at some point, if they want to come back and reverse that scenario, I can tell you that we have that in a condition that if a court says so, we can correct that. However, that would be a very, very sad thing to do based on what you think your race or your opponent or candidacy or whatever else, because guess what? Elections are for voters. Not for candidates and not for political parties.”

Andersen spoke at length on the matter to Florida Politics on Monday.

But state officials seemed displeased at reports of Bay County’s procedures.

“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell.

“Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”

After Michael struck the region, Florida officials eased early voting restrictions for eight counties, including Bay County, recovering from the storm.

Gov. Rick Scott bent some rules through an executive order signed Oct. 10.

But in a release in an election plan for storm-struck areas released by Detzner on Oct. 18, state officials explicitly reminded elections officials that voting by fax or email is not covered by Scott’s order.

“In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots,” reads a media release.

“Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues. The Department is actively reviewing ways to provide more absentee ballots to those voters in the counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

And Bay County Republican Party Chairman James Waterstradt says he was not aware before the election of email ballots being allowed. He served as an election observer during the recount of votes, which concluded last night, and said the issue of email ballots never came up there.

“I’ve only heard anything about email in reference to military ballots,” Waterstradt said.

Scott, the Republican nominee for Senate, won Bay County with 46,646 votes over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson’s 16,684 in the initial tabulation of votes.

Three statewide races in Florida went to recount after initial tabulation, drawing scrutiny to election irregularities in all counties.

Statewide, Scott leads Nelson by 12,562 votes, or 0.15 percent.

In the gubernatorial election, Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes, or 0.41 percent.

In the Agriculture Commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried leads Republican Matt Caldwell by 5,326 votes, or 0.06 percent.

Bay County has already completed its recount of the Senate race, and adjusted totals to report Scott winning 46,647 votes, one more than the initial count, while Nelson’s total remained at 16,684.

In the recount totals of the Governor’s race, DeSantis also picked up a single vote and won 45,695 votes in Bay County while Gillum’s total remained at 16,738.

In the Agriculture Commissioner recount, Fried picked up that one extra vote, and records now show she received 17,011 Bay County votes to Caldwell’s 45,730.

Amid recount, Pam Bondi raises prosecution threat for Broward, Palm Beach officials

Outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi on Sunday scolded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for declining so far to investigate the tabulation of votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Bondi, a Tampa Republican, also demanded Secretary of State Ken Detzner report all election irregularities in the Democratic-leaning counties to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, which reports to her.

The state’s chief legal officer sent a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen saying the law enforcement agency has an obligation to investigate now.

“I am deeply troubled by your announcement that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Bondi wrote.

In a separate letter, Bondi told Detzner to report “any indication creating a reasonable suspicion of potential criminal activity” on the part of Broward or Palm Beach elections officials to her office. (Both letters are also at the bottom of this post.)

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, as a U.S. Senate candidate and not as Governor, on Thursday announced a lawsuit against Broward and Palm Beach counties demanding records on the number of votes cast.

That came as continued votes caused his lead in a Senate race over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson to erode.

When final unofficial vote totals were reported to the Division of Elections by noon Saturday, Scott held a 12,562-vote, or 0.15 percent, lead in the Senate election—well with the 0.5 percent to trigger a statewide mandatory machine recount.

At a press conference, Scott also called on the FDLE to investigate irregularities in the two counties.

An FDLE spokesperson said they were “working with” Department of State officials but had not received any credible reports of elections fraud and would not investigate—at least not at that time.

“The FDLE communicated with the Department of State and they indicated at the time that they have no allegations of fraud,” FDLE spokesman Jeremy Burns said Friday afternoon.

“We offered our assistance in the event that any criminal allegations are identified, and we will remain in contact with them.”

Bondi’s letters came the same day that Scott filed an emergency complaint (see below) seeking to require that FDLE and local sheriff’s offices impound and secure all voting machines, tallies, and ballots in Broward and Palm Beach counties that are not actively in use.

Scott’s complaint also asks a judge to insist, in particular, that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes not destroy any ballots and that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher follow legal requirements for reviewing ballots.

In a statement, Democrats said such tactics showed an abuse of power by Scott.

“In suing to seize ballots and impound voting machines, Rick Scott is doing his best to impersonate Latin American dictators who have overthrown democracies in Venezuela and Cuba,” said Juan Peñalosa, the Florida Democratic Party’s executive director.

“The Governor is using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our Democracy.”

Susan Bucher: “Impossible” for Palm Beach to meet recount deadline

Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher says her office cannot complete a machine recount of three statewide resources before a Thursday deadline.

“It’s impossible,” she told CNN.

The statement comes the same day Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott filed a lawsuit demanding any votes counted after Saturday’s noon deadline for initial tabulation be left out of official results.

Secretary of State officials say if the recount of ballots cannot be completed before the deadline, there’s no choice but to certify results with incomplete totals.

“The deadlines for submitting the results of the recount are laid out in Florida law and the law does not give the Secretary of State any authority to grant extensions,” Sarah Revell, a spokesperson for Florida’s Department of State, tells Florida Politics.

“Florida law clearly states that if a county does not submit their results by the deadline then the results on file at that time take their place.”

The admission comes as Florida deals with an unprecedented three statewide recounts—for U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner. Palm Beach County must also hold a recount for the state House District 89 race.

As of the first tabulation, Scott leads Democrat Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate race by 12,562 votes, or 0.15 percent. For Governor, Republican Ron DeSantis leads Andrew Gillum by 33,684, or 0.41 percent. For Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried leads by 5,326 votes, or 0.06 percent.

In state House District 89, Republican Mike Caruso leads Democrat Jim Bonfiglio by 37 votes.

CNN reports Republican and Democratic election observers in Palm Beach County agree the count won’t be completed in time.

The county was the last to report totals to the Division of Elections on Saturday when a voter tabulation date passed.

Scott lawsuit says Bucher’s office failed to comply with state deadlines and reporting requirements.

The Division of Elections reports Palm Beach County saw 595,840 voters participate in this year’s general election, a turnout of 63.82 percent.

A total of 8,302,983 voters statewide voted in the election, a turnout of 62.53 percent.

Rick Scott wants votes counted after deadline tossed before recount

A new lawsuit filed by Republican Rick Scott’s Senate campaign demands a judge remove from election totals all votes counted after noon Saturday by elections officials in heavily Democratic Broward County.

Scott leads Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by 12,562 votes as of the completion Saturday of an initial tabulation of the election.

That represents 0.15 percent of nearly 8.2 million votes cast statewide. Florida law calls for a machine recount when the margin between candidates falls within 0.5 percent, then for a subsequent manual recount if the margin remains within 0.25 percent.

Scott’s complaint dubs any votes uncounted before the statutory deadline for reporting election results as “Illegal Ballots.”

“Defendants have failed and refused to confirm whether they will count and/or add the Illegal Ballots to Defendants’ official return, or maintain the Illegal Ballots segregated at all times and not included in Defendants’ official return,” the complaint reads.

“There is no basis or law that would require or permit Defendants to count ballots after the submission of the Unofficial Return.”

The law requires all counties to report a count to the state as of noon Saturday. Democratic leaning counties Broward and Palm Beach tabulated thousands of votes between Tuesday and Saturday, as Scott’s margin of victory shrunk from about 53,000 votes to less than 13,000.

Republicans complain in particular at a delay in counting early and vote-by-mail ballots.

Scott’s suit was filed shortly after a press call in which Scott attorney Tim Cerio said any ballots mailed to elections officials before the election but not received before 7 p.m. on Election Day should be considered fraudulent.

“If there’s a willful counting of those ballots after the fact, yes that would be fraud,” Cerio said.

Nelson says Scott’s lawsuit seeks to intentionally disenfranchise voters for circumstances beyond their control.

“If Rick Scott wanted to make sure every legal ballot is counted, he would not be suing to try and stop voters from having their legal ballot counted as intended,” Nelson said.

“He’s doing this for the same reason he’s been making false and panicked claims about voter fraud—he’s worried that when all the votes are counted he’ll lose this election.

Scott previous sued successfully for Palm Beach and Broward counties to provide records to his campaign before the completion of ballot counting. Elections officials argues that would delay a vote count but a judge sided with Scott and ordered the records to be handed over.

Complaint_A

Broward County delays recount for hours over machine calibration

A recount of votes in Broward County started hours after schedule because of machine glitches.

Elections officials today planned to begin a state-ordered recount of votes for U.S. Senator, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner at 7 a.m.

But the count didn’t begin until 11 a.m., according to the Miami Herald, because of failed logic and accuracy tests with 10 elections machines.

Bill Scherer, an attorney for Republican Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, told the Sun-Sentinel that the delay came from Democratic objections thanks to a large number of undervotes for the Senate race reported in the initial counting of votes.

“They are saying it was a machine glitch,” he told the Sun-Sentinel.

“Their only hope of overturning this election is claiming there was a machine malfunction.”

The argument in Broward came a day after Democrat Bill Nelson’s recount attorney, Marc Elias, argued machine calibration provided the best explanation why fewer votes were cast in Broward County for U.S. Senate than for Governor or even for Agriculture Commissioner.

In Broward, the initial tabulation showed 683,963 votes cast for Senate, compared with 708,955 votes cast for Governor.

Elias says that shows 24,992 undervotes at least in the election that might be picked up by properly calibrated machines.

The initial vote count found Scott leading Nelson in the Senate race statewide by 12,562 votes, about 0.15 percent of the almost 8.2 million votes cast.

The Senate race is one of three statewide elections, along with Governor and Agriculture Commissioner, with a margin narrow enough to trigger a machine recount.

In the Governor’s election, Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes, or 0.41 percent. For Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried clings to a 5,326-vote edge, or 0.06 percent.

Broward County was the second-to-last county behind Palm Beach County to complete the initial tabulation of votes, shortly before the noon deadline on Saturday.

But many smaller counties have yet to begin the machine recount.

Broward County in the first tabulation reported 714,859 votes cast, a turnout of 60.82 percent.

Statewide, there were 8,302,983 votes in the first tabulation, a turnout of 62.53 percent.

Rick Scott: Bill Nelson ‘is clearly trying to commit fraud’

Republican Senate hopeful Rick Scott told Fox News that Democratic opponent Bill Nelson wants fraudulent ballots to count in Florida’s U.S. Senate race.

“Sen. Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try and win this election,” Scott said on Fox News Sunday. “That’s all this is.”

Scott spoke to the cable news network about a recount that began today for the Senate race. Results certified Saturday showed Scott leading Nelson by 12,562 votes, or 0.15 percent of nearly 8.2 million votes cast.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace pressed Scott on the accusation of fraud, noting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not yet received any written complaint of fraud.

Scott responded that Nelson’s legal team wants fraudulent votes counted in the totals.

“We have very specific election laws in the state to try and prevent fraud,” Scott said.

He noted lawsuits his campaign team filed against election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties to ensure party officials could review the ballot counting process. A judge last week ordered the elections officials to release information to Scott’s campaign.

Scott noted Nelson’s legal team objected to a canvassing board in Broward County rejecting a vote from a non-citizen and, he said, now wants vote-by-mail ballots rejected because signatures don’t match to be counted.

Nelson attorney Marc Elias on Saturday told reporters ballots should not be tossed because an election worker thought signatures didn’t match closely. He also said votes still in the mail but not delivered before Election Day should be counted.

Scott seemed to argue against that today.

“Nelson has gone to court to say fraudulent ballots that were not properly delivered, signed, whatever, should be counted,” Scott said.

Wallace said Nelson declined an invitation to appear on Fox News—and he did not appear on any of the Sunday political talks this morning—but played a clip of Nelson from earlier this week saying: “Votes are not being found, they are being counted.”

But Scott cast doubt on whether new votes found since election day were cast at all, again singling out votes in Broward and Palm Beach.

“Another 93,000 votes were cast—or somehow they came up with another 93,000 votes after Election Day,” Scott said. “We still don’t know how they came up with that.”

Ron DeSantis calls election ‘clear and unambiguous’ ahead of recount

Republican Ron DeSantis said he is moving forward with his transition into the Governor’s Mansion, even after Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum withdrew his concession from Tuesday’s election.

“With the election behind us, it’s now time to come together as a state as we prepare to serve all Floridians,” DeSantis said in a video statement (below).

“Since Tuesday night, that is what I have been doing and that is what I will continue to do in the days and weeks ahead as I prepare to take office as the 46th Governor of the State of Florida.”

A completed tabulation of votes statewide shows DeSantis holding a 33,684-vote lead over Gillum. That’s 0.41 percent of more than 8.2 million votes cast.

Florida law requires an automatic machine recount of the election should the margin between candidates full below 0.5 percent.

Gillum on Saturday held a press conference during which he pulled back a concession to DeSantis made Tuesday night.

“Since that time, more information has come in,” Gillum told reporters.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner earlier on Saturday ordered a recount for the race.

DeSantis did not mention Gillum in his statement, and certainly didn’t go so far as Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott’s campaign did today in asking Democratic opponent Bill Nelson to forgo a recount.

But the Governor-elect did call the results of the election “clear and unambiguous, just as they were on Election night.”

“I am honored by the trust that Floridians have placed in me to serve as your next governor,” DeSantis said.

He also did not raise issues with voting irregularities in Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties, something that has led to legal back-and-forth between Nelson and which prompted a lawsuit by Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Calwell, who trails Democrat Nikki Fried right now, to file a lawsuit against the elections officials.

But DeSantis certainly suggested his campaign would be paying attention to any vote-counting proceedings.

“I want to express my appreciation to the supervisors, the canvassing boards, and the staffs for working hard to ensure that all lawful votes are counted in this election,” DeSantis said.

“It is important that everyone involved in the election process strictly adhere to the rule of law which is the foundation for our nation.”

DeSantis named a transition team earlier this week. They are still working, he stressed.

“Since the election a few days ago, we have begun our transition efforts to build an administration that can secure Florida’s future,” DeSantis said.

Bill Nelson’s attorney still likes his odds. Here’s why.

The lead recount attorney for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson remains confident his client will come out ahead after a manual recount of votes, despite a 12,562-vote deficit behind Republican Rick Scott in totals certified Saturday by the state.

“I expect to see that margin to evaporate entirely and for Sen. Nelson to take a small lead,” said attorney Marc Elias.

The margin between Scott and Nelson today represents 0.15 percent of nearly 8.2 million votes cast statewide. Florida law requires a machine recount if the gap between candidates falls with 0.5 percent.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Saturday ordered election officials in all 67 counties to prepare for a recount of three statewide races: U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.

Elias expects when the machine recount concludes that the gap between Nelson and Scott will shrink substantially.

The main reason? Undervotes.

There’s already been media speculation about why Broward County, a Democratic bastion, saw 24,992 fewer votes counted for U.S. Senate than for Governor, despite the race appearing first on the ballot.

Outlets like FiveThirtyEight suggest poor ballot design could play a role, but Elias dismissed that.

If design were a major element, Elias said, then ballots counted in Broward County since Tuesday would have similarly discrepancies. But Elias says as he observes election returns, the most recently counted ballots don’t show a significant deficit in Senate votes.

That leads Elias to believe the issue had to do with machine calibration. The devices counting votes must be carefully set to count light marks for votes but not be so sensitive to pick up stray marks as overvotes.

Machines across the state will be recalibrated before the recount, which most counties expect to start Sunday. That should lead more votes cast for U.S. Senate.

Based on where there seem to be a high number of undervotes, Elias expects gains for Nelson.

But even if the machines don’t pick up all potential votes, Elias expects a hand recount will find more. State law requires a manual recount if the vote margin remains within 0.25 percent.

“The human eye can make judgments on voter intent that machines can’t,” Elias said.

If a voter marked a bubble with an ‘X’ or circled a choice, then a machine likely won’t count that. But a canvassing board will put that vote into totals.

Elias brushed aside concerns raised by Republicans about some 20 rejected provisional ballots in Broward County that were inadvertently put in the vote pool there.

The ballots were all rejected because of mismatched signatures, Elias said. The Nelson campaign has a pending federal lawsuit that asserts Florida’s signature requirement law violates a constitutionally protected right to vote.

In the end? Elias doesn’t know for sure where the margin will settle, but remains upbeat.

“I like Sen. Nelson’s odds over those of the Governor,” Elias said.

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