Elections Board Rejects Reno's Recount Request
MIAMI – The Florida Elections Canvassing Commission has rejected Janet Reno's request for a statewide recount in the gubernatorial primary.
Reno, the former attorney general, had sought to have a manual recount after Miami-Dade County officials found hundreds, if not thousands of uncounted votes.
Secretary of State Jim Smith said a recount would not occur, but state elections officials would be willing to receive any uncounted votes found.
"Whatever those totals are, at that time, will, at that time, determine whoever the winner is," Smith said.
Reno will not file a lawsuit challenging the election, according to her attorney.
"I do not foresee a set of circumstances where we will be filing litigation," campaign attorney Alan Greer said. "She does not want to freeze the Democratic Party."
The decision gives Tampa lawyer Bill McBride the victory in a marred Democratic gubernatorial primary election. More than 1.3 million voters came out to choose the Democratic nominee but problems in more than a dozen counties with new touchscreen voting machines created a day of chaos last Tuesday.
Some voters were not able to cast their votes, others left after waiting in line for hours. Gov. Jeb Bush had ordered polling places to stay open an extra two hours but several poll workers didn't get the message and closed the polling stations before everyone could get through the line.
Then, Miami-Dade election officials began finding large numbers of uncounted votes that had apparently not been properly downloaded from the computerized voting machines by poll workers. All that after the state spent $32 million on new voting machines and training sessions to prevent a rehash of the 2000 presidential election debacle.
On Friday, Bush sent letters to election officials in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, demanding in writing by Thursday an explanation of what went wrong and what they will do to make sure it doesn't happen again. Bush, who was expected to have a close contest for re-election after the Florida recount that put his brother into the White House, has been quick to say that elections supervisors are responsible for malfunctions in their counties.
Bush stopped short of asking for election officials' resignations.
"It would be unwise to remove you from office," he said. "Nonetheless, you must learn the lessons of Tuesday's failures and take all the steps required to guarantee that the November election will be a success."
At the end of counting Thursday, McBride had an unofficial lead of 44.5 percent to 43.9 percent for Reno. A recount is automatically triggered if the difference in percentage of the vote is less than .5 points.
Reno filed for a recount Friday afternoon, saying that she wanted the elections commission "to determine the expressed will of the voters" and to "ensure that the votes of all Democrats in the state who voted in the primary would be counted."
She was quickly denied, but has said that she will not concede until the review process is complete.
That ends on Tuesday, when Miami-Dade officials certify the results of its ballot count. On Saturday, they will begin examining every machine in the county. Reno has also asked officials in Broward County, another one of her strongholds, to review the count in 200 precincts there.
Assuming that enough uncounted votes are not submitted to overturn McBride's roughly 8,000-vote lead, he will become the candidate to face off with Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. However, a computer analysis by the Associated Press reveals that if Reno is right about the 80 precincts with uncounted votes, she could make up the 8,000-vote difference.
On Thursday, Miami-Dade elections chief David Leahy said workers examined four polling stations that originally showed a total of 96 votes. The review boosted the total to 1,914 votes, though officials did not say how many went to Reno and how many went to McBride.
In one precinct, computers registered 900 percent more votes than there were eligible voters, while no votes were recorded in several precincts with thousands of voters.
The 80 precincts targeted by Reno reported a total of 1,952 votes cast. But those precincts had 31,375 registered Democrats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.