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Florida Counties Racing To Recount Votes Ahead Of Thursday Deadline


We begin this hour in Florida, where they are still counting votes from last Tuesday's elections.


CHANG: That sound you just heard is a machine in Leon County, Fla., where ballots are being counted and sorted. The entire state is making its way through 8 million ballots in the first-ever recounts for statewide races. And the Thursday deadline is quickly approaching. Joining us now from Tallahassee, Fla., is Miles Parks, who covers voting for NPR. Hey, Miles.


CHANG: So how are things going so far?

PARKS: So it depends on where you look. Florida is a huge state - 67 counties. I just got off the phone with an election supervisor in Madison County who told me they actually finished their recount yesterday, but that was about - that was less than 8,000 votes.

I also visited Leon County's election office. They're going through about 4,000 ballots an hour at this point...


PARKS: ...When they've got both their machines running. But at the time I was there, they were actually servicing one of those machines, so going about half that speed.

They expect to be done in the next day or two, but even Leon County is small compared to places like Broward and Palm Beach - about one-fourth the size of those counties, which have, obviously, been getting most of the attention so far.

CHANG: Well, how is it going in Broward and Palm Beach Counties?

PARKS: Unfortunately, at this point, it seems like more of the same of what we've heard. Broward County took a few hours to even get started in the process yesterday because of some technical issues with their counting machines. And they actually still haven't started the counting process. They're still in the middle of actually sorting those ballots because they have such a long ballot to get through.

Over in Palm Beach, their election supervisor actually used the word, impossible, over the weekend...

CHANG: Uh-oh.

PARKS: ...When talking about whether they're going to make Thursday's deadline.

CHANG: There's also been a lot of focus on the question of fraud in this election from President Trump, as well as Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, from current Senator Marco Rubio. How are election officials dealing with these fraud allegations?

PARKS: Well, it's important to say at the onset that despite all of this talk, we actually haven't seen any evidence of voter - widespread voter fraud. Rick Scott asked Florida law enforcement to investigate the issue, and nothing has turned up there. And at a hearing today, a judge said the same thing while also begging both sides to, quote, "ramp down the rhetoric."

But also, it's important to note that all of these conversations about voter fraud make the jobs of election officials even harder. I talked to Mark Earley, who's the supervisor of elections in Leon County, specifically about what the president tweeted today. He said he thought the races in Florida should be called for the Republicans without a recount because, in his views, the totals are tainted.

Earley was kind of hesitant to get into politics. Election officials are notoriously very, very nonpartisan. But he did say this.

MARK EARLEY: You've got dedicated patriots out there who are, you know, going without sleep to get out there and protect democracy. And if anybody's out there undermining that, especially when they have some kind of a role to play in making sure that it's done well, you know, that hurts our nation.

PARKS: And as someone - I've been covering voting for much of this year leading up to the midterms. That line, especially when they have a role in making sure it's done well, really struck me as about as much of a shot at the president/the governor as you're going to hear from an election official.

CHANG: Why? What do you think he was meaning there?

PARKS: Well, it's really interesting. What's kind of getting lost in this conversation as Trump and Rick Scott are taking these shots, especially at Broward County and Palm Beach County, specifically about shoddy election administration, is that they have some degree of control over a lot of this stuff.

Rick Scott, specifically, has been the governor in Florida for the past eight years. The supervisor of elections of Broward County has been the supervisor during that entire time. And the governor has the power to remove a supervisor of elections at their discretion and appoint their own person. Rick Scott did not choose to do that.

CHANG: That's NPR's Miles Parks. Thanks, Miles.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.