Another election season in Florida has passed and the outcomes of multiple races hung in the balance for weeks afterward. It’s déjà vu all over again.
Data published by Politico on Nov. 15 showed Republican Rick Scott leading Democrat Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate race by only 12,609 votes; Nelson later conceded to Scott. In the race for governor, Republican Ron DeSantis lead Democrat Andrew Gillum by just 33,697 votes, but won the election when Gillum conceded on Nov. 17. To be fair, tight races themselves are not a quandary for Florida. Rather, it’s the state’s inability to record votes that is so problematic.
Consider the presidential election of 2000. Florida was unable to determine a winner between candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush, as faulty machines and outdated technology obstructed voter intent. Images of election officials analyzing ballots with magnifying glasses stunned a confused nation. How could such technical futility exist in America? The outcome remained in doubt until the United States Supreme Court dubiously intervened on Bush’s behalf. In the end, he was declared the state’s winner by a minuscule tally of 537 votes.
Surely the Florida Election Commission was incentivized to prevent such chaos from reoccurring. But 18 years after the Bush-Gore debacle, voting irregularities persist. According to an NBC News report, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker recently declared Florida to be “the laughingstock of the world election after election” and chastised state officials for choosing “not to fix this” recurring problem. Given the circumstances surrounding Florida’s latest recount, it is hard to question Judge Walker’s statement.
Take, for example, the decision-making employed in Palm Beach County, where 175,000 votes had to be recalculated after aging machines overheated. Their election supervisor, Susan Bucher, told The New York Times she declined to purchase new voting equipment due to an impending state law scheduled to take effect in 2020. According to her, the law will render any voting machines purchased in 2018 obsolete. As stated by Bucher, “I don’t think it’s very responsible to spend $11.1 million on equipment that’s not going to be viable in 2020.”
In fairness to Palm Beach, they are not the only Floridian county exhibiting ineptitude. The Times reported multiple counties as being mired in similar controversies. In Broward County, counting was delayed for several days due to voting machines that failed to comply with state regulations. In Bay County, officials “admitted accepting votes cast by email and fax, which appears to be illegal.” And in Manatee County,” election workers had to start over after about five hours of counting, because the elections supervisor forgot to press a button that would identify blank ballots.”
It has been 18 years since the election fiasco of 2000. Why is this still happening? If Florida officials want to restore faith in their electoral system, they will invest the resources necessary to ensure the integrity of their elections. Until this occurs, Florida will remain the laughingstock of future elections.
And there is nothing humorous about that.