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Broward County Ballot Design May Have Violated Guidelines, Resulting in Odd Pattern of Senate Votes

The U.S. Senate race in Florida remains too close to call, with an automatic recount appearing to be an inevitability as Republican Rick Scott‘s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is now less than .2 percent. There have been quite a few allegations lobbed regarding possible foul play on the part of Democrats, but latest reports indicate that the design of a key county’s ballot likely resulted in thousands of voters overlooking the Senate race altogether.

According to the Sun Sentinel, an unusual pattern has emerged in Broward County, where many more people voted in local races than the U.S. Senate race, when the trend is typically the reverse. As of Thursday evening, there were more than 13,900 ballots that included votes for state Attorney General that left the U.S. Senate race blank; more than 8,700 ballots had votes for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, but not votes for senator; more than 8,300 ballots had votes for Florida Chief Financial Officer, but not votes for senator; more than 24,900 ballots had votes for governor, but not votes for senator.

The newspaper’s report indicated that Broward is the only county to show this trend, and that this could be due to the Senate race being listed in the lower left hand corner of the ballot, below the instructions. While the local races were all situated elsewhere on the ballot, only Senate and U.S. House of Representatives were located below the instructions, and in one district where there was no race for rep, the Senate race was the only one below the instructions.

Not only does it seem like this led to confusion, this exact problem was anticipated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission more than a decade ago. In a 2007 report, the Sun Sentinel noted, the Commission issued guidelines about ballot formatting that specifically said that ballots should not be designed like Broward’s because people are likely to skip over races inadvertently. Broward’s ballot printed vertical instructions, which the guidelines said “cannot share column space with contests — test voters often overlooked races located immediately beneath vertical instructions.”

Rick Scott had served as governor of Florida since 2011.

Law&Crime reached out to the Election Assistance Commission for more information about these guidelines, including whether they are still in effect, but they have not responded. Nevertheless, this design issue appears to be one that was specifically anticipated and addressed in the past, but disregarded in Broward County’s 2018 ballot.

[Image via CBS Miami screengrab]

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