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New tech could make recounts quicker, more accurate

The presidency was won in 2000 by 537 votes cast in Florida, and a recent special election for Congress here was won by just five votes.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The presidency was won in 2000 by 537 votes cast in Florida, and a recent special election for Congress here was won by just five votes.

State law sets standards for recounts, and new technology could make recounts in 2022 and beyond quicker and more accurate.

Voters in Florida sometimes select two candidates in the same race or color outside the lines on their ballot, making it difficult for their choice to be known.

“Sometimes, people circle the name and that’s not a fill-in oval, so voting machines sometimes miss that,” explained Mark Earley, president-elect of the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association.

The state is now in the process of drafting rules for new technology that will make the recount process more accurate, faster and more transparent.

“And then we can go to this vote visualization and we immediately see those ballots where voter intent was missed,” said Earley as he demonstrated how the system works.

The systems already capture images of every ballot scanned. Allowing the scans to be used to review over and under votes instead having to re-feed every ballot through the system again will save time and labor the next time a recount is ordered.

Earley says it makes sense to not trust the same machines that did the original count.

“If you are really trying to prove the results of an election, it makes sense not to use the same equipment you used the first time. You use a competitor’s piece of equipment. So that’s what we’re doing, and I think it’s very transparent,” Earley said.

The systems are already used to audit whether voting machines counted accurately. A 2020 law allows them to be used for recounts.

When this legislation passed, it went all the way from committee to the governor’s desk without a single “no” vote. So we asked the supervisor: “Any doubt in your mind there will be a recount in the next election?”

After he finished laughing, he joked: “Where’s the wood I need to knock on?”

Adopting the new system is voluntary for the states 67 elections supervisors, but at least 22 are already on board to use the systems for the upcoming 2022 election. Duval County’s supervisor of elections office is considering this technology and could buy the system later this year.

The technology was developed in Leon County, where it has been in use since 2009, but only for audits, not recounts.


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