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In Hillsborough, a calmer count as canvassing board reviews ballots

The canvassing board carried out the routine duties of democracy, reviewing provisional and mail-in ballots
Election employees Ryan Bashore, left, and Lilly Rodriguez, right, bring in a stack of ballots as the canvassing process continues at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office on Friday.
Election employees Ryan Bashore, left, and Lilly Rodriguez, right, bring in a stack of ballots as the canvassing process continues at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office on Friday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 6, 2020

TAMPA — The counting furiously continued across the country on Friday, but in Hillsborough County it was a calmer and routine affair.

Members of the Hillsborough County Canvassing Board reviewed provisional and mail-in ballots during a morning meeting at the Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center.

The board evaluated 732 early voting provisional ballots, unanimously accepting 99 of them and rejecting 633. They also analyzed Election Day provisional ballots, accepting 511 and rejecting 1,131.

The problems the board found included residents voting in the wrong precinct, registering after the deadline, voting without identification or failing to bring identification, and signatures on mail-in ballot envelopes that didn’t match the voters’ signatures on record.

The members reviewed 293 mail-in-ballots. Of these, 73 failed to sign their ballots and the signature on 211 ballots did not match the one in their voter file. All those voters were contacted and given the opportunity to cure the signature issues but didn’t respond, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office.

The board also reported one “challenged” vote, when a voter is accused of identity theft, and one MARG or “mail registrant” vote, which is usually a new voter voting for the first time who failed to furnish identification.

The members of Hillsborough’s canvassing board are: Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer and judges Margaret Taylor, Miriam Valkenburg, Daryl Manning, Jack Gutman, John Conrad and Jessica Costello.

After the tabulation the numbers will be uploaded to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections website, Latimer said, and to the state to be incorporated into the Florida Division of Elections website for statewide and federal races.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer stamps accepted ballots during the canvassing process at the elections office on Friday.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer stamps accepted ballots during the canvassing process at the elections office on Friday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Latimer said the board will meet again at 9 a.m. Saturday to submit the first “unofficial report” to state election officials.

“Then, the state will look at all the information to see if there are any races that cross county lines and maybe end in a recount,” he said. If the state orders any re-counts involving Hillsborough, Latimer said his office is ready to start the process, but added: “I really doubt it because I don’t see anything that we can have an issue with.”

Latimer said if there’s no recount process, the board will issue a second unofficial result and then certify the 2020 election results on Nov. 13. That’s because overseas ballots can still be received 10 days after the election, so long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3, Election Day.

Latimer said the board’s work won’t dramatically change local results.

“We only have small numbers of signature mismatches and a variety of not signatures, too,” he said. “And I think that it is a relatively small number as I said compared to the 347, 000 plus ballots we got back.”