Chaos, but not fraud, reigned in Florida midterms

Mackenzie Stewart, News Editor

The 2018 midterm elections have captivated millions of Americans across the country with new Democratic gains in the U.S. House of Representatives and in key state positions and with allegations of voter fraud.

Notably, Democrat J.B. Pritzker won the Illinois gubernatorial seat, Sean Casten took the U.S. House of Representatives 6th congressional district seat from incumbent Peter Roskam, Lauren Underwood won over incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th congressional district U.S. House of Representatives race and, in Lake County, Sheriff Mark Curran was upset by Democrat John Idelberg in the final vote counts released the Tuesday after the election.

But it was the state of Florida that became the site of controversy during these midterms as ballots were recounted days past Election Day. President Trump called for an end to these recounts and even made allegations of voting fraud in Florida.

The two races in Florida under the most scrutiny were for senate and governor, with Republican Governor Rick Scott running against the Democrat and incumbent Bill Nelson for senate and Republican Ron DeSantis competing against Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor.

While the situation in Florida was confusing and hectic, there was not enough evidence to support rampant voter fraud. Furthermore, while there was not the most efficient management by the election judges in Florida, there wasn’t mismanagement at the level of widespread fraud.

If the election judges in Florida want to recount their votes to ensure accuracy and to ensure that every vote counts, they should be allowed to, but within a reasonable time.

The most controversy occurred in Broward County, Florida, where there was debate over the election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, and her ability to fulfill her duties. According to the NBC article “How Brenda Snipes and other black election workers got falsely targeted by Trump” written by Janell Ross on Nov. 24, Snipes has a history of overseeing elections containing key flaws, such as long lines at polling locations and “leaving a medical marijuana ballot initiative off of some voter forms and releasing early vote totals before the polls closed in 2016.”

Two counties in Florida, Broward County and Palm Beach County, were unable to meet the Thursday, Nov. 15 deadline, but both counties were able to submit recount numbers by the Sunday, Nov. 18 deadline. The recounts did not change the outcome of the election as both Scott and DeSantis were able to hold on to their wins.

There are both benefits and drawbacks to the recount process, from the length of the recounting being a disadvantage to the advantages of ensuring a fair election.

“The longer it goes, the more the legitimacy of the election is going to be challenged, and for results to be accepted, it has to be legitimate; people have to accept the rulings,” Thomas Kuhn, an AP Comparative Government teacher, said about a key drawback to taking a long time to recount votes.

However, the legitimacy of an election can also be upheld through the recount process.

“If recounts are complicated and difficult, and if extending it ensures that it’s going to be done accurately and you’ll take thorough steps, then that could increase the legitimacy at the same time,” Kuhn said.

Claims of voting fraud occurred mainly after the machine recounts led to a number 2,000 short of the number before recounts, according to the article, “Rick Scott Wins Florida Senate Recount as Bill Nelson Concedes,” written by Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles and Maggie Astor, and published in the New York Times on Nov. 18.

While this can be perceived as slightly alarming, the 2,000 vote gap could be because of mistakes made by Snipes, and while they may be major mistakes, there is not enough evidence to point to voter fraud.

While the recount process may have been long and confusing, there was not voting fraud. Despite claims of purposefully misplacing ballots, the recount process was able to ensure that ballots were counted, and the extended deadlines were put in place to ensure that there was no fraud.

However, some believe that the changes in numbers as the machine recounts continued were examples of fraud.

“I extremely believe that there was [voter fraud] because…the videos of just new votes rolling in and in even after the elections were done, I think that that should be a sign of voter fraud. I mean, there’s a reason DeSantis and Rick Scott won after they made a watch over the count because, in the first place, there was voter fraud,” Zach Scott, junior, said.

DeSantis and Scott both have a right to watch over their elections and to ensure that the race is being carried out fairly, but the recounts would have continued without the process being under their watch because the purpose of the recount was to ensure fair voting and to not promote foul play.

“The Department of Elections basically said that there was no evidence, and the only person saying that there is seems to be Donald Trump and his supporters, so I don’t think accusations are evidence,” Caitlyn Mathews, junior, said.

It is also interesting to consider that President Trump was claiming voting fraud in Florida, but both contested races turned out to be a win for the GOP. And while it is fine to level some criticism at the Florida counties for slow recounts, it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim voting fraud.

“I think that everything that [Trump] says is pretty much exaggerating the truth, but [voter fraud is] still there, and it’s still apparent,” Scott said.

In an increasingly politically divided culture, it is important to make sure that both parties support fair elections even if that means a long recount period to ensure that every vote counts. The essential part of our democracy is the vote, and politicians need to make sure that they find substantial evidence before making claims that tarnish the voting process.

Besides the switch in control in the House of Representatives and the apparent “blue wave” that some are saying has rolled across the county, the controversies in Florida over voting fraud is yet another example of the political polarization in the country as seemingly unsupported accusations of voting fraud were across the news weeks after Nov. 6.