Talk about disparate impact.
Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) beat out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for the Florida Senate seat, but looking back on the recount totals, 25 percent of Bill Nelson’s gained votes in Florida recount were in Broward County alone, even though Broward County only made up 8 percent of the state’s total vote count. Was it fraud?
Looking at the county data from election night to what happened in the Florida recount for the U.S. Senate seat, and Broward County and a few other counties do stand out as anomalous. That is to say, these few counties chalked up a disproportionate share of recount votes in favor of soon to be former Sen. Nelson compared to their shares of the population: Broward, Orange, Miami-Dade, Alachua, Suwannee, Leon, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hamilton.
What you might expect would happen is that there would be a certain change in the vote tally between the initial count from election night, which includes early voting, and a manual recount, and that those differences would be roughly distributed evenly throughout the counties based on their overall percentage of the population, accounting for machine error and the like.
Instead, in the recount, 5,325 new votes were recorded, which Nelson won 74 percent to 26 percent statewide, about the same as Broward County. In Orange County, Nelson won the new recount votes 84 percent to 16 percent, 91 percent to 9 percent in Alachua County and an absurd 98 percent to 2 percent in Miami-Dade County.
Overall, Broward County accounted for 24.8 percent of the entire state’s recount net votes in favor of Nelson even though it only accounted for 8.3 percent of the state’s total vote count, Orange County accounted for 12.3 percent even though statewide it only accounted for 5.8 percent of total votes, Miami-Dade was 11.7 percent versus 9.8 percent, Alachua was 3.2 percent versus 1.4 percent, Suwannee was 0.8 percent versus 0.2 percent, Leon was 2.3 percent versus 1.7 percent, Hillsborough was 6.6 percent versus 6.4 percent and Pinellas was 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent.
Nelson picked up about 2,529 votes in the recount, cutting the victor Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) lead to a little more than 10,000 votes. Of the 2,529 votes Nelson picked up in the recount, 67.3 percent of those were in these 10 counties even though overall they only made up 41.5 percent of votes cast statewide.
Meaning the recount itself for whatever reason is what produced the irregularity. Only two of the 10 counties that produced anomalies in favor of Nelson were ones that Scott won, but being so much smaller they can more or less be discounted as they only produced 29 out of the 2,529 net votes in favor of Nelson, or just 1 percent.
Also interestingly, the recount statewide only resulted in net gains for Scott in eight out of 67 counties. Four had no net gain or loss. 55 counties produced gains for Nelson.
President Donald Trump, before the recounts were underway, noted that recounts always favor Democrats. On Nov. 9, he tweeted, “Rick Scott was up by 50,000+ votes on Election Day, now they ‘found’ many votes and he is only up 15,000 votes. ‘The Broward Effect.’ How come they never find Republican votes?”
Trump has got a point. In some of these counties almost all of the new votes “found” after Election Day favored Democrats, and statewide three-quarters of the new votes favored Democrats.
Now, I’m not saying there was fraud. What I am saying is that the difference between what these particular counties initially reported and what they reported in the recount stand out as anomalies, particularly considering their shares of the state’s population. Where did all these new votes come from? Someone should find out.
It could be that the new votes simply were not delivered in time to make the machine count, but then turned up in the manual count, including provisional ballots. But isn’t that why there are state-imposed deadlines?
Voter suppression does not appear to have been at play as a reason for the votes to have not been initially counted, unless anybody believes Democrats were suppressing their own votes in the initial count in counties they overwhelmingly control.
The fact is, Broward County and other Democrat-heavy counties in Florida produced disproportionate shares of recount votes in favor of Bill Nelson that, on the surface, appear irregular. In order to rule out any potential fraud and to make sure this doesn’t happen again, the state Attorney General and the Justice Department Civil Rights Division should look into it — before 2020.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.