Florida recount: ‘A conflicted state in a conflicted country’

By: Joshua Ceballos

News Director for FIU PantherNOW

The ballot machines are overheating, and so are Florida voters as the recount of the gubernatorial votes drags on in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In the midst of the state recounting its razor-thin election results, protesters and political experts are calling for the removal of Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

At the Florida Priorities Summit on Wednesday, a panel of political reporters panelists discussed the issues at play in Florida’s election and what needs to be done to make sure the State is no longer “the problem child” of the country.

Marc Caputo, a reporter for Politico Florida, said that Snipes has seen the writing on the wall and that she cannot continue if Florida wants to avoid this issue again.

“She’s running a really incompetent operation, and we need to get rid of her,” said Caputo.

Caputo echoed the sentiments of Republican protesters present outside Snipes’ office on Monday.

Sofia Manolesco, Republican protester outside the Broward Supervisor of Elections office. (Photo by PantherNOW)

Rachel Smolkin, the executive editor of CNN Politics, said that what’s at work in Florida is a fundamental issue of democracy.

This is a repeat of the Bush vs. Gore scenario but in a time when things are really heated,” said Smolkin.

Part of the problem when it comes to exceedingly close elections, according to Caputo, is media coverage. He said that the media has the responsibility to make sure the public has a realistic expectation for election results.

We grew so accustomed to our electronic media and instant info that the senate race was called a little early, and we should’ve prepared the public that official returns don’t show up until later on,” said Caputo.

Smolkin called Florida a “conflicted state in a conflicted country,” and agreed with Caputo that the media can do a better job of easing this conflict.

Election night is a big night, but it’s not the only night. We can do a better job of setting up expectations of the people about the timing of elections,” Smolkin said. 

The issue comes not only from public perspective but also from an operational standpoint on the part of elections offices in South Florida.

In Palm Beach County, the recount continues to lag behind due to overheating of ballot machines on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The overheating has required Palm Beach to restart their counting process.

Caputo said that these machines are the same ones that were used by Theresa Lepore, former Palm Beach County supervisor of elections during the contentious presidential election recount between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000. These machines were problematic then, and they’re problematic now.

If Florida wants to avoid these issues in the future, they have to learn from the past, according to panelists at the summit.

Miami Herald Editor Amy Driscoll covered the recounts in Florida in the 2000 election, and she said that things are looking very similar today to the situation then, although the stakes are different.

Back then, the State did not have statutory provisions for statewide recounts for close elections that it does now, said Mark Seibel, national security editor for BuzzFeed News, but many of the same issues are happening.

Here we are in 2018 with machines that can’t do the job they’re designed to do, and with misleading ballots,” said Seibel. “I thought the state had made great strides since 2000,  but they didn’t go far enough.”