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Palm Beach County Canvassing Board certifies results for special primary election

Judge rejects Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick's request to stop counting 3 vote-by-mail ballots in Democratic congressional race
Posted at 12:18 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 18:22:27-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board certified the election results Friday in the special primary election for Florida's 20th Congressional District.

Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office transmitted the official election returns to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections shortly after 5 p.m.

In Palm Beach County, a closer look at ballots not read by the machines resulted in one additional vote for Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

"In our case, we had a vote that was an undervote. [It] had no circles filled in, so the machine counted it as an undervote, but the voter had circled a candidate," Sartory Link said.

Palm Beach County also had more than 90 ballots that were not counted because they arrived after Election Day.

Sartory Link said there were no overseas ballots arriving after election day to be counted.

Cherfilus-McCormick's vote count in Palm Beach County was 3,864 compared to 1,014 votes for Dale Holness.

Earlier in the day, the Broward County judge rejected a request by candidate Cherfilus-McCormick to block the counting of three vote-by-mail ballots in the narrow race to determine who will represent the Democrats in the special election.

Judge Fabienne Fahnestock on Friday rejected a request for injunctive relief on behalf of Cherfilus-McCormick, who held a two-vote lead on Holness after last week's required machine recounts.

Cherfilus-McCormick sought to stop the Broward County Canvassing Board from counting three vote-by-mail ballots that were initially discarded because of questions about the voters' signatures.

Holness wants to count them.

Dale Holness poses for photograph with volunteers
Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness poses for a photograph with volunteers while waiting for the results of the Democratic primary in Florida's 20th Congressional District.

Cherfilus-McCormick's lawsuit argued that the canvassing and counting of these three additional vote-by-mail ballots "is illegal and not authorized." The lawsuit also contends that the signature-match process conducted by the canvassing board at its Nov. 5 meeting "was flawed and contrary to law."

"These ballots do not represent true ballots signed by the actual voters named on the ballot envelopes" as required by Florida law, Cherfilus-McCormick's attorney, Benedict Kuehne, wrote in the lawsuit.

According to the supervisor of elections offices in Broward County and Palm Beach counties, the unofficial combined votes after the machine recount puts Cherfilus-McCormick at 11,659 votes, just two behind Holness.

Cherfilus-McCormick lost one vote between the hand and machine recounts in Palm Beach County, unofficial results show.

Although Fahnestock rejected Cherfilus-McCormick's request, she ordered that the three ballots in question be kept separate from the others.

The tabulation deadline is Sunday, but both counties have coordinated to finish Friday in case there is a tie to settle the race, essentially with a coin toss.

Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness are seeking to fill the seat left vacant since the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., in February. The winner will face Republican Jason Mariner in the Jan. 11 special general election.