Kendall Coffey said this year’s election mess in Florida reminded him of the election in 2000.
That was the year Al Gore ran against George W. Bush, the latter winning by a narrow margin of 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266. The election was wrought with a particular amount of controversy after Bush was awarded Florida’s electoral votes by a lead of just a few hundred votes. After recounts, the original total was upheld and Bush was awarded the presidency.
Coffey was on the team of attorneys who represented Al Gore in the ensuing lawsuits to do the recount by hand instead of by machine. This year, Florida election officials were up into the early hours of Wednesday morning tallying votes.
“There’s no hanging chads or butterfly ballots, but there’s still a question mark looming over the map of Florida,” said Coffey. “As I was watching the news around 2:30 this morning, I looked at a map with blue, red, and then there was one state that was none of the above, and it was Florida. That part is déjà vu again.”
But there wasn’t nearly as much controversy surrounding Florida this year, despite the lateness of their results. “The giant dissimilarity is Florida became irrelevant rather than a decider of history,” Coffey said. President Obama reached the winning number of electoral votes well before Florida finished its official count.
This year’s slow process was due in part to the large volume of absentee ballots sent in. In Brevard County, for example, nearly a third of all votes were absentee ballots, about 91,000 –each of which is carefully examined by hand by multiple elections office staff members to assure they are valid before putting them in the vote-scanning machine.
Coffey, among others in Florida, is calling for change in Florida’s voting system with the hope that a reorganization could help expedite the process in the future and make it less frustrating for voters, officials, and the rest of the country.