Lake Wales braces for recount as 1 vote separates Daniel Williams, Brandon Alvarado

A Canvassing board on Thursday could allow as many as 9 more votes into the final total.

Lake Wales officials are bracing for the first recount in recent history. That’s after election results showed a one-vote difference between City Commissioner Daniel Williams and challenger Brandon Alvarado.

The difference could still change before a recount takes place.

Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said three provisional votes were cast in the city election, and a canvassing board must still rule if they get counted. Additionally, six vote-by-mail ballots were not accepted for various reasons like signature matches, but voters have until 5 p.m. Thursday, April 4, to cure issues and still have their votes counted.

That has the potential to shift totals by as much as nine votes before the city certifies election results. As things stand, Williams has received 939 votes, while Alvarado garnered 938. Third-place candidate Crystal Higbee also received 347 votes. The city’s election law means the top vote-getter wins the seat without a runoff.

The one-vote margin represents a difference of just 0.04% of all votes cast. Florida law requires a machine recount for elections decided by less than 0.5 percentage points, and a hand recount if the results then remain with 0.25 points.

That means a recount would happen even if every outstanding vote goes to Williams and grows his lead to 10 votes, or 0.45% percent of all votes cast.

Still, the determination on a recount formally won’t be made until the Canvassing Board meets on Thursday to decide whether to tabulate outstanding votes and certifies the election results.

While the Polk County Supervisor of Elections contracts with the city to conduct the election, the Canvassing Board is actually made up of three City Commissioners. In this case, that’s Mayor Jack Hilligoss and Commissioners Keith Thompson and Robin Gibson, none of whom appeared on the ballot this year.

The city also has three alternates, former City Commissioners who will fill in if any Canvassing Board members cannot participate. For example, former Commissioner Al Goldstein filled in on Tuesday when a health reason prevented Thompson from attending the Tuesday Canvassing Board meeting, when most votes were counted, according to City Clerk Jennifer Nanek.

Ultimately, the duties of the Canvassing Board are chiefly mechanical, interpreting voter intent on ballots that don’t read on a machine and determining the validity of votes cast provisionally or where a signature is in question.

The board will also decide on Thursday when a recount takes place. The Supervisor of Elections has offered to conduct a machine recount as needed on Friday at 2 p.m.

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 [email protected].

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