Broward elections supervisor explains changed vote tallies

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Early voters wait in line to vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in one of the important swing states is held for eight straight 12-hour days, leading up to the November 6 general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Early voters wait in line to vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in one of the important swing states is held for eight straight 12-hour days, leading up to the November 6 general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is responding to theGrio’s story Monday detailing significant changes to the voter tallies on the first day of Florida early voting. The SOE chief says the changes, particularly at a polling place in a predominantly black neighborhood where National Action Network chief and MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton and a group of pastors held “souls to the polls” rallies over the weekend, were the result of human error.

Read the original report on theGrio

In a telephone interview with theGrio late Monday, Snipes said the SOE’s office runs two tallies — one manually calculated at the precincts by adding up the total number of voters swiped through an electronic voter identification system called EVID, which was purchased from a Florida vendor, and a second, electronic tally conducted at the Supervisor of Elections office after the polls close each day. The electronic numbers go directly to a database.  Snipes said the woman who tallied the votes at the E. Pat Larkins Community Center, which had its vote tally revised downward by 1,003, simply added the numbers incorrectly.

“The woman made a mistake,” Snipes said. “That was absolutely an addition error. The actual numbers are 1942 not 2945, so she made an addition error.”

“What we do at the end of the evening is, we have different pieces of equipment that run [at each polling place] to I.D. the voters; at the Patk Larkins Center we have four or six pieces of equipment,” Snipes continued. “And the workers … get the tally from the site the workers manually added the numbers and when they manually added the numbers they mis-added, so when we run the numbers through our system, we correct them.”

Snipes said the real problem was that the office released the hand counted tallies rather than waiting for the electronic tallies, which are in the revised numbers.

“I think that’s a result of trying to get everything out to the public quickly,” Snipes told theGrio. “In an effort to get everything out on website, we didn’t get a chance to double check our numbers.”

Snipes said that going forward, only the electronic tallies will be posted to the website.

She added that discrepancies in the number of people tallied at the polls can include a difference between the number of people who show up at a polling place and the number who actually vote on a traditional rather than a provisional ballot. And she emphasized that the numbers on the website represent the number of people, not the number of votes. The totals are returned to the SOE’s office on a thumb drive after each day’s polls close.

counting the number of people who showed up at their site.  That is the manual count. It is illegal under floirda law for us to count any votes or release any votes before November 6. Theyre the voters who walked in that site and had their drivers licencsed swpied through the e vid machihne. Our report doesn’t show votes cast, it shows voters who showed up to vote.

And should it inspire confidence in the election system if so much is left to individuals and their proclivity for addition?

“No votes have been lost,” Snipes said. “No votes have been counted or exposed to anyone. Those numbers that you see are the number of people who showed up at a site. Sometimes a person may show up and decide not to vote. They may cast a provisional ballot. The numbers you’re seeing, we’re reporting people, we’re not reporting votes.”

“This is not vote counting, it’s people counting.”

Follow Joy Reid at @thereidreport