Florida is plowing through three statewide recounts, seemingly on its way to at least two more.
The U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner races will probably remain close enough to trigger an analysis by hand of every under and over vote later this week.
The state has issued some guidelines on how to divine meaning in errant voting.
Under votes happen when tabulation machines do not read a selection in a certain race — perhaps the voter just did not fill in a response. Over votes happen when no clear vote is recorded because a voter completed multiple lines or made several marks.
Officials will look at each questionable ballot and try to interpret the voter's intent. A good rule of thumb? Uniformity helps. Counting teams will "look at the entire ballot for consistency." If a voter used an incorrect method to select responses, but it was the same incorrect method throughout, their ballot is more likely to count.
Let's see how you would do as a reviewer. Try the examples below, which are provided in the state guidelines.
There's a recount for state representative. Does this voter's mark for Don Nichols count as a selection? No. Here's what the Division of Elections writes: "Since the voter did not mark the state representative race in the same manner as in the other races, it cannot be determined whether the voter has clearly indicated a definite choice for Don Nichols."
Say the third race, for state representative, is in a recount. Does the vote count? Yes. From the guidelines, provided by the Florida Division of Elections: "All races on this ballot are marked in the same manner. Since the ballot is consistently marked … the vote cast for Michael Ross in the state representative race is a valid vote."
Two different ballot styles in a fictitious race for attorney general. Do any of these votes count? Yes, the top two. The state lists many ways to make a selection. Squiggles, checks, an x or a circle — any could be acceptable in certain situations. But it’s not okay for those marks to touch multiple candidates. From the Division of Elections guidelines: “The voter marks an “X,” a check mark, a cross, a plus sign, an asterisk or a star, any portion of which is contained in a single oval or within the blank space between the head and tail of a single arrow. The marking must not enter into another oval or the space between the head and tail of another arrow.”
Do either of these lines make a valid vote? Yes, according to the state. The top one. The Division of Elections explains a mark is acceptable "if it is a horizontal line, (but) the line must not strike through the name of the candidate."
Well? The state says count it. According to the guidelines, it is acceptable if "the voter strikes through all the choices for candidates, issue, or judicial retention except for one and also leaves the write-in candidate space blank."
Do either of these votes count? Yes, the state says, the one on the left. The Division of Elections explains: "The voter writes words such as 'Vote for [candidate's name],' 'Count this vote,' or 'Vote no on amendment or referendum,' or ' want this one,' provided there are no other markings in the race that would constitute a valid vote for a different candidate, issue choice, or judicial retention choice pursuant to rule."
Valid votes? Yes. According to the state guidelines, it is okay if "the voter fills in the majority of an oval, or the majority of the distance between the head and the tail of an arrow designating a particular candidate, issue choice, or judicial retention choice, regardless of how other races on the ballot are marked."