A discrepancy in the number of votes cast for governor and senator in Florida in Broward County is raising questions about the ballot design there, as the vote-count margin in the two big races continues to narrow.
A CNN analysis of votes cast in Broward County suggests that ballot design could be responsible for a substantial difference in the number of votes cast between the race for governor and the race for senator in Florida, meaning thousands of voters there may have missed their chance to weigh in on the still-undecided Senate race. The placement of the Senate race on the ballot could have made it easy to overlook.
Overall, as of Friday, nearly 26,000 voters in the county had cast ballots for governor but skipped voting in the Senate race, according to a CNN analysis of precinct-level results.
Broward County became infamous for vote-counting problems during the 2000 presidential recount.
Broward is a Democratic-leaning county. Among those who did vote in the Senate race there, 69.1% backed incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, while 30.9% backed Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum topped Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis in the county by a similar share of the vote (68% for Gillum to 31.3% for DeSantis), but Gillum earned about 10,000 more votes from the county than Nelson received.
Nelson trails Scott in the Senate race by about 15,000 votes statewide, and the race is likely heading for an automatic recount because the margin is so narrow.
Photos shared on Twitter of the ballot used in Broward show the races for Senate and the county’s congressional districts in the lower left corner of the paper ballot, below lengthy instructions on how to vote. The candidates for governor were listed more prominently to the right of the instructions.
In neighboring Miami-Dade, where a sample ballot posted online suggests the Senate race appeared at the top, there were more votes cast for Senate than there were for governor. Across all 67 counties in the state, Broward’s is the largest difference in votes cast between the two races, by more than 23,000 votes.
Across the 547 precincts in the county where both the Senate race and a congressional race were on the ballot, a comparison of the total votes cast in the governor’s race and the Senate and congressional races shows a nearly identical dropoff for the two federal races in 417 of them, with the difference in dropoff between the Senate and congressional races representing 2% or less of all the votes cast for governor, meaning that nearly all voters in those precincts who skipped the Senate race also skipped the congressional race.
That suggests those voters may not have seen the two races in the bottom left corner of the ballot. Across all precincts with both Senate and congressional races in the county, roughly 3% of people skipped voting in the Senate race even though they had voted for governor.
In the part of the state represented by Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who ran unopposed, it is likely that no House race appeared on the ballot, as Florida law does not require votes to be counted in unopposed contests. That would leave the Senate race on its own in the bottom left corner of the page.
In precincts that are part of that congressional district, the dropoff rate was even higher, with roughly 10% of people who voted in the governor’s race not voting for Senate.