Osceola County begins monumental task of sorting ballots for statewide recount

Over 116,000 ballots have to be sorted through

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County started its ballot recount process Saturday, but it won't be starting the actual recount of the votes until Tuesday, according to Osceola County Supervisor of Elections Mary Jane Arrington.

Florida's governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner races are being recounted after the Florida secretary of state announced Saturday they would need to be reviewed.

The goal for Osceola County is to have the finalized recount numbers by Wednesday evening, however Arrington said it is difficult to determine exactly when they will have the numbers.

"We've never had a statewide recount for three elections, so we don't know how much time it's going to take," Arrington said. 

Osceola County was required to have both English and Spanish translations on the ballot, which made the ballot longer than those of other counties that provided English-only ballots.

Election workers started separating ballot pages on Monday at the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections office, with a goal of completing the separation by Monday evening.

Workers are separating the ballot to collect only the first page, page A, because it has the three races required by the state to recount.

"We had 116,000 voters vote times two, so we're dealing with 232,000 pieces of paper," Arrington said. 

Arrington said Osceola County saw its highest voter turnout in 24 years at 53 percent across the county this year. More than half of the registered voters in Osceola County are Democrats but Arrington said 33 percent of registered voters have no party affiliation -- a higher number than Republicans.

Arrington said she allowed observers from both the Nelson and Gillum campaign, who were there to oversee the process, into the area where ballots were being separated. Eight observers are allowed into the area. One for each candidate and one for the Democratic and Republican parties.

Gary Berrios from the Republican Party of Florida said he was there to act as a witness. 

"It's all about legality," Berrios said. "We want every vote to be counted, but we want every vote that is legal to be counted."

Arrington said it's a monumental task because of the time frame. The deadline is Thursday, but ballots sent in from overseas have until Friday at 5 p.m. to be counted.

"Voting is not an exact science. We wish it were. The larger the county and the more pages you have, the larger the task is," Arrington said. 

Counties have until Thursday at 3 p.m. to submit their finalized numbers to the secretary of state.