Recount deadlines need to be changed, supervisor of elections says

Bill Cowles says resources maxed out in election recounts

ORLANDO, Fla. – A local supervisor of elections took issue with the Florida election recount deadlines, the last of which passed Sunday.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said the protocol for election recounts in Florida placed too much pressure on staff to complete what he called “tight” recount deadlines.

“It’s a time-consuming process,” Cowles said. “ We need to take a strong look at the timeline.”

Cowles said Florida allows 12 days to certify votes in a general election. In his view, the deadlines need to be changed before the 2020 election cycle.

“We have to -- particularly when you’re talking about a presidential election year,” he said. “Our state keeps growing by numbers and so  the volume continues to grow.”

According to Cowles, the new population presents the potential for more votes and ballots in what continues to become a so-called purple state.

“I know California has up to 32 days (to certify votes) but I’m not proposing that,” Cowles said. “I’m just saying we need to look at giving the staff a chance to do it.”

In Florida’s 2018 midterm elections, the standard of a 0.5 percentage point difference between candidates mandated a machine recount and a 0.25 difference mandated a hand recount.

In the governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, the machine recount confirmed DeSantis the victor. The race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Democrat  Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott needed both machine and hand recounts. Scott won with roughly 10,000 votes.

“I’m not sure what (the solution) is," Cowles said. “Do the percentages need to change? Does the timeline need to change? We need to take a hard look at it. If nothing else, let’s have the discussion.”

When asked if taxpayers were getting their money’s worth in the recount process, Cowles told News 6  he is confident taxpayers were well served.

“Especially for the assurance that everything was counted properly," he said. “It gives them that sense of satisfaction, knowing that the election was conducted properly.”

Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge agreed that the time deadlines need to be reviewed.

“I think what we are discovering is the timeline is too unrealistic," Hodge said. “Broward county had 7 million pieces of paper to do in 10 days. That is quite a feat.”

Lake County Supervisor of elections Alan Hayes agreed the timeline should be discussed.

“There’s no question the larger counties need some time to gear up," Hayes said. “If you are well organized and staffed, you can get it done.”

The Supervisor of Elections Association will meet in Sarasota the first week in December. Hayes said the recount protocol is expected to be a top order of business.

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