Tampa Bay Times by Miami Herald
March 3, 2019
It would have seemed absurd to say it amid all the accusations of voter fraud, blown deadlines and lawsuits, but now that the haze of Florida’s midterm debacle has cleared, the 2018 election fiasco could actually prove to be a good thing for the country’s premier battleground state.
On one hand, nearly two decades after Florida set the bar for election chaos, an unprecedented three statewide recounts showed in November that laws put into place following the infamous 2000 presidential election were, in fact, largely successful. A new and uniform recount system enacted across all 67 counties lent certainty to a previously nebulous and politicized process, and hard deadlines helped keep the election from being decided by the courts.
But Florida’s recount encore also exposed lingering flaws in the electoral process that could undercut the 2020 presidential race should voters in a gridlocked state remain so evenly divided. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by little more than 1 percentage point in 2016, and no one should be shocked next year if Decision 2020 is within the 0.5 percent margin that triggers yet another recount.
The good news: State lawmakers will have an opportunity over the coming weeks to once again address Florida’s election woes as they meet for their annual legislative session. With the proper adjustments, people can go to the polls to vote for president next year with more confidence and less chance of once again watching their state become a national punch line.
“What we see as Florida election law is actually a puzzle pieced together. And it isn’t until you have a major election like this and you have multiple close races where the rubber hits the road that you see how these pieces fit together,” said Michael Morley, an assistant law professor specializing in elections at Florida State University.
“There are opportunities for improvement.”
A Miami Herald election postmortem based on dozens of interviews with candidates and experts and thousands of pages of emails, court transcripts and internal election records found that Florida’s voting problems are hardly insurmountable.