Donald Trump is warning America that the 2016 election could be conducted unfairly.
"They even want to try to rig the election at the polling place,” he said. “So many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is very, very common."
Bill Cowles disagrees in the strongest of terms.
“In 2008, Governor Charlie Crist switched Florida to a paper based ballot state,” Cowles said. “Gone were the touch screens that replaced the old punch cards voting systems in many counties after the 2000 election. The Florida Legislature made the change to paper since paper ballots can be used to recreate an election and verify voter intent. The optical scan tabulators used with the paper ballots are NOT connected to the internet or any outside servers. They are standalone tabulating systems. Additionally, there are checks and balances in place to verify that the number of voters checked-in and issued a ballot matches the number of ballot cast in the tabulators.”
As Trump’s talk of a rigged election continued to get media attention, Florida elections officials issued an open letter to the state’s voters.
Cowles, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, invited the public to his Kaley Street office to watch his staff test the voting machines that will count the votes of an estimated 500,000 Orange County voters at 247 precincts across Central Florida for 47 unique races. This test is required by a Florida Statute (101.5612, section 3 and 4).
The statute requires that a small sample of voting equipment and all vote-by-mail equipment be publicly tested using a group of ballot cards marked, or voted, with a pre-audited pattern. The pattern must include a pre-determined number of valid votes for each candidate and each measure. Each group of ballots must include a blank (unmarked) as well as an over-voted ballot.
The County Canvassing Board, which includes Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson, checked the results and approved them. Nelson was pleased with the performance of the machines and the Supervisor of Elections staff as well.
"The machines are ready for the voters," he said. "I've been very impressed by the professionalism and the detailed expertise of the staff and the supervisor. It's an honor to be on the canvassing board to make sure that every vote counts in Orange County."
Cowles agrees with Nelson on the readiness of the machines and the staff.
"The test went well. It turned out the way we expected it to."
Typically Cowles has a staff of 46 full-time employees, but during the election season, it swells to almost 250. He says his staff is ready for any issue, but he will still "pray the election supervisor prayer".
"We don't care who wins, we just want them to win big."
Notes: As of today, there are 767,779 registered voters in Orange County. Cowles estimates 68-70% will vote, which is a similar turnout to the 2012 Presidential Election. He also estimates 55% of those votes will be cast in early voting or vote-by-mail. Currently there have been 31,829 ballots returned and accepted.
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