By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
November 19, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- In the 2000 recount and the 2018 election, bad ballot design was a contributing, if not a deciding, factor on who won.
In each year, it was Democratic supervisors of elections who cost Democratic candidates the election.
In 2000, it was the infamous butterfly ballot that had nearly 4,000 people in Palm Beach voting for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore. Gore lost by 537 votes. This year, Broward County put the U.S. Senate race at the bottom of a long first column following a list of ballot instructions.
“If we were to look at how those undervotes would have broken down, partisan wise, in Broward County, that would have netted Nelson anywhere from 9,000 to 11,000 votes. Which theoretically, I mean, he lost by about 10,000, that could have made the difference up,” said data consultant Matt Isbell.
The U.S. Senate undervote in Broward County was between 3.5 and four percent. That’s nearly four times higher than the statewide average of one percent.
“We had many counties, including Dade and Palm Beach, where more votes were cast for the U.S. Senate than for governor,” said Isbell.
Republican Party of Florida Attorney Pete Dunbar lays the blame on the local Democratic Party and Bill Nelson’s campaign.
“Everybody had the opportunity to look at that ballot ahead of time. That can be considered a bit of a careless oversight on the part of the Democrats,” said Dunbar.
While it’s too late for Nelson now, count on ballot design being on campaign checklists going forward.
Both the butterfly ballot and this year’s ill-fated Broward County ballot were designed by Democratic supervisors of elections.
“One of the things we all learned after 2000 is that we all have to be more engaged in the ballot design process,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale. "This is a public process.”
Broward County Election Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes has resigned, effective January 4.
One of the infamous “butterfly” ballot machines was given to the state museum in 2001.