Administering this past Primary was a dry run for quite a new array of logistics.
New voting rules were in effect. All Elections Supervisors faced down a decennial redistricting year that had legislative arguments about apportionment dragging into April, scrambling which voters would get what ballots late into the year. And there’s a new Office of Election Crimes and Security overseeing it all.
Broward County Elections Supervisor Joe Scott, first elected in 2020, faced all that, along with running his first countywide election in the state’s second-most populated county. And it’s a county that has had legendary problems with voting administration, even before President Donald Trump started raising questions about “rigged elections.”
In 2018, after a series of mistakes, including illegally destroyed ballots, then-Gov. Rick Scott sought the ouster of Scott’s most recent predecessor elected to the post. Gov. Ron DeSantis eventually allowed Brenda Snipes to resign.
Scott’s Office endured a few bumps along the way for this latest Primary. It was enough that the announcement that DeSantis was coming to Broward with Antonacci for a “major announcement” spurred speculation that Scott’s suspension, or at least an office audit, might be imminent.
Instead, the announcement turned out to be the arrest of 20 people for voter fraud.
And, on Primary Election night, Broward County’s votes were counted quickly enough that most unofficial election results were complete in time for the 10 p.m. news.
“On the results side, everything went really well … it wasn’t as late of a night as some people thought it would be,” Scott said.
Controversially, on the front end, Scott shrank the number of voting precincts and increased the size of voter identification cards (but then went back to wallet-sized cards after the outcry). There were some hiccups with moved polling places and some voters receiving the wrong ballots in the mail.
“It was a humbling experience,” Scott said. “Probably the most difficult was for a new Supervisor to get their feet wet with a countywide election right after redistricting and especially when you consider all the stalling that went on in Tallahassee, all the fighting over the maps that caused delays in getting the final maps so we could begin.”
Overall, Broward’s Primary turnout was down 2.5 percentage points from the last election, for a turnout of 21.3% of Broward’s 1.2 million voters. It’s still dismally low. And watchers are wary.
“Was I thrilled with the way things went or are going now? No,” said Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, who also served in the state Senate. “Do I think he’s going to do much better in the future? Yes. I don’t think anyone would have done a flawless job based on how late they got the precinct lines set.”
Scott is pledging that, for the General Election, there will not be voting precincts behind homeowner association gates, unless all the voters are contained within the community. And the number of early voting sites are going to increase to 25, an increase of three new sites from the last election cycle.
In addition to early results, Scott is taking as a win that vote-by-mail totals broke the level set in the last Midterm Election. This time, more than 136,000 voted by mail, while that number didn’t even break 100,000 in the last Midterm Primary in 2018.
The trend could end up boosting voter participation, he said.
“One thing that we’ve seen is that people who request a vote-by-mail ballot are far more likely to vote than people who don’t,” he said.
A new tracking system that notifies voters when their ballot has been received got its first countywide run. And Scott said he’s received a lot of positive feedback about that.
“People really seem to like the fact that they get that notification that their ballot was received,” Scott said.
Scott is also reaching out to younger voters putting out videos promoting voting on Twitch, a live streaming platform for gamers. And Scott’s interns were able to convince him to cut a TikTok video that featured him singing about the election in auto-tune.
“I definitely want to do more of that,” he said.