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Florida > The Florida Election Code > Voting Methods And Procedure

§ 101.5614 Canvass of returns.

Overview of Statute

This statute governs the process by which the state canvasses voting returns. Once the election is over, the county canvassing boards are responsible for securing all voting devices, and must open and verify the ballots publicly, in front of anyone interested. For write-in ballots, the canvassing board is responsible for comparing the write-ins with the votes cast on the ballot. The statute also addresses physically damaged absentee ballots, and the procedure for duplicating federal write-in absentee ballots. Absentee ballots can be counted automatically if they can be. The return printed by the automatic equipment, which is added to the return of write-in, absentee, and manually counted votes, as well as provisional ballots, constitute the official return of the election after certification.

Statute

(1) As soon as the polls are closed, the election board shall secure the voting devices against further voting. The election board shall thereafter, in the presence of members of the public desiring to witness the proceedings, verify the number of voted ballots, unused ballots, provisional ballots, and spoiled ballots to ascertain whether such number corresponds with the number of ballots issued by the supervisor. If there is a difference, this fact shall be reported in writing to the county canvassing board with the reasons therefor if known. The total number of voted ballots shall be entered on the forms provided. The proceedings of the election board at the precinct after the polls have closed shall be open to the public; however, no person except a member of the election board shall touch any ballot or ballot container or interfere with or obstruct the orderly count of the ballots.

(2) The Department of State shall, in accordance with s. 101.015, adopt rules that provide safeguards for the counting of votes at a precinct and at a central or regional location.
(3) The results of ballots tabulated at precinct locations may be transmitted to the main computer system for the purpose of compilation of complete returns. The security guidelines for transmission of returns shall conform to rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to s.101.015.
(4)  For each ballot or ballot image on which write-in votes have been cast, the canvassing board shall compare the write-in votes with the votes cast on the ballot; if the total number of votes for any office exceeds the number allowed by law, such votes shall not be counted. All valid votes shall be tallied by the canvassing board.
(5)
(a) If any vote-by-mail ballot is physically damaged so that it cannot properly be counted by the automatic tabulating equipment, a true duplicate copy shall be made of the damaged ballot in the presence of witnesses and substituted for the damaged ballot. Likewise, a duplicate ballot shall be made of a vote-by-mail ballot containing an overvoted race or a marked vote-by-mail ballot in which every race is undervoted which shall include all valid votes as determined by the canvassing board based on rules adopted by the division pursuant to s. 102.166(4). All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled “duplicate,” bear a serial number which shall be recorded on the defective ballot, and be counted in lieu of the defective ballot. After a ballot has been duplicated, the defective ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with the other ballots for that precinct.
(b) A true duplicate copy shall be made of each federal write-in absentee ballot in the presence of witnesses and substituted for the federal write-in absentee ballot. The duplicate ballot must include all valid votes as determined by the canvassing board based on rules adopted by the division pursuant to s. 102.166(4). All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled “duplicate,” bear a serial number that shall be recorded on the federal write-in absentee ballot, and be counted in lieu of the federal write-in absentee ballot. After a ballot has been duplicated, the federal write-in absentee ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with other ballots for that precinct.
(6) If there is no clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice for an office or ballot measure, the elector’s ballot shall not be counted for that office or measure, but the ballot shall not be invalidated as to those names or measures which are properly marked.
(7) Vote-by-mail ballots may be counted by automatic tabulating equipment if they have been marked in a manner which will enable them to be properly counted by such equipment.
(8) The return printed by the automatic tabulating equipment, to which has been added the return of write-in, vote-by-mail, and manually counted votes and votes from provisional ballots, shall constitute the official return of the election upon certification by the canvassing board. Upon completion of the count, the returns shall be open to the public. A copy of the returns may be posted at the central counting place or at the office of the supervisor of elections in lieu of the posting of returns at individual precincts.
(9) Any supervisor of elections, deputy supervisor of elections, canvassing board member, election board member, or election employee who releases the results of any election prior to the closing of the polls in that county on election day commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

History:

s. 14, ch. 73-156; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 21, ch. 77-175; s. 14, ch. 81-105; s. 17, ch. 84-302; s. 1, ch. 85-17; s. 5, ch. 86-200; s. 17, ch. 90-315; s. 1, ch. 94-208; ss. 22, 37, ch. 2001-40; ss. 14, 15, ch. 2002-17; s. 38, ch. 2005-277; s. 35, ch. 2011-40; s. 2, ch. 2011-162; s. 12, ch. 2016-37.

Annotation: March 8, 2016 1:37 pm

At the polling place, a ballot which has overvotes or where every race is undervoted is returned to the voter by the tabulator, giving the voter the opportunity to correct the error. Since absentee ballots don’t afford the voter that same opportunity, this provision requires the canvassing board to review overvoted or blank ballots to determine voter intent, thereby allowing the valid votes on the ballot to be counted.

Definition [Voting Device]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, voting device means an apparatus by which votes are registered electronically.

Definition [Provisional Ballot]

A conditional ballot, the validity of which is determined by the canvassing board.

Definition [Issue]

A proposition that is required by the State Constitution, by law or resolution of the Legislature, or by the charter, ordinance, or resolution of a political subdivision of this state to be submitted to the electors for their approval or rejection at an election, or a proposition for which a petition is circulated in order to have such proposition placed on the ballot at an election. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(13).

Definition [Ballot]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, ballot means the card, tape, or other vehicle upon which the elector’s choices are recorded. Fla. Stat. § 101.5603(2).

Definition [Person]

An individual or a corporation, association, firm, partnership, joint venture, joint stock company, club, organization, estate, trust, business trust, syndicate, or other combination of individuals having collective capacity. The term includes a political party, affiliated party committee, or political committee. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(14).

Definition [Elector]

“Elector” is synonymous with the word “voter” or “qualified elector or voter,” except where the word is used to describe presidential electors. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(15).

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(12).

Definition [Overvote]

The elector marks or designates more names than there are persons to be elected to an office or designates more than one answer to a ballot question, and the tabulator records no vote for the office or question. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(25).

Definition [Undervote]

The elector does not properly designate any choice for an office or ballot question, and the tabulator records no vote for the office or question. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(39).

Cases

Florida Cases

Out-of-State Cases

Case State: florida

Case Name: Gore v. Harris

Citation: 773 So.2d 524

Year: 2000

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/16990a46dcc2ad479b9eeb904e277a45

Case Summary: Gore v. Harris held that because adequate standards for a manual recount could not be developed by the deadline set by the United States Supreme Court, appellants Gore and Lieberman were given no relief.

Case State: florida

Case Name: Wexler v. Lepore

Citation: 878 So.2d 1276

Year: 2004

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/a64f9a0c363eae4d70f7c6981b8b7616

Case Summary: Wexler v. Lepore held that the Secretary of State had statutory authority under the Electronic Voting Rights Act to handle how recounts would be conducted. As such, Weller's suit was dismissed.

Federal Cases

Case Name: Wexler v. Anderson

Citation: 452 F.3d 1226

Federal Circuit Court: 11th Circuit Court

Year: 2006

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/4bdc86e343b5d929a2cddfb707162b60?query=Wexler%[...]

Case Summary: Wexler v. Anderson held that Florida's manual recount procedures did not violate equal protection because, as to the possibility that should voters in touchscreen counties cast residual ballots, those ballots would receive a different and possibly inferior type of review in a manual recount was not enough of a burden to make strict scrutiny appropriate; and the procedures were justified by Florida's regulatory interests.

Case Name: Bush v. Gore

Citation: 531 U.S. 98

Federal District Court: Eastern District of Virginia

Year: 2000

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/ffe23a532d148e534fb47425579e2894?query=531%20U[...]

Case Summary: Bush v. Gore held that Florida's recount procedures were inconsistent with the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter in the instance of a statewide recount under the authority of a single state judicial officer.

Regulations & Guidance

Additional Resources

Further Reading

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 121, Generally

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 136, Regulation of conduct of elections

  • Fla Jur. 2d Elections s 162, Request of application for ballot-Overseas voters; electronic means for receiving overseas votes

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 168, Generally

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 175, Generally

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 176, Effect of ambiguity of vote; what votes are to be counted, generally

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 17, Treatment of absentee ballots, generally

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 181, Recounts

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 182, Recounts-Manual recount

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 225, Offenses of officials connected with elections