Bill Cowles contends ACLU rejected-votes study used ‘incorrect data’


Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles is calling out as flawed an ACLU-produced study that found county elections offices’ had high rejections of mail-in ballots, especially in some counties like Orange.

Cowles office released a statement late Wednesday charging that his office had determined before the study’s release that it was using 2016 election data submitted to the state in January 2017. That data contained not just ballot rejection information, the statement said, but also numbers on undeliverable vote-by-mail ballots. The statement said Cowles’ office sought to alert the ACLU in advance of the report’s release that the study apparently was using incorrect data that would have inflated some rejection rates.

The ACLU of Florida study, “Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida,” reported a higher rejection rate in the 2012 and 2016 general elections for mail ballots than those cast in person, with ballots cast by younger and minority voters more likely to get rejected. The study found that some counties, particularly Orange and Miami-Dade, had particularly high rejection rates.

Cowles office said it sought to bring to the attention of the study’s chief researcher, Dan Smith, that the data he was using may have included the undeliverable ballot numbers. Orange officials also sought to alert the ACLU of Florida in advance of the report’s release on Wednesday that the study might be using bad data, Cowles office said in the statement.

“Notwithstanding these representations, the report the ACLU produced today failed to modify or even annotate the incorrect data contained in the “rejection” total for Orange County Vote-by-Mail ballots cast in Florida in the 2016 General Election,” the Orange County statement declares.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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