Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, a Democrat, has done nothing to address the ongoing election integrity crisis caused by his office changing vote totals multiple times in County Commission District 6. There are now more serious questions being raised by candidates in the race as well as Orange County residents that could demand Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ election integrity task force gets involved in Orlando.
Initial results on Election Day showed Cynthia Harris in second place by six votes. Those numbers held until late Thursday night when Cowles and his staff altered the numbers the first time.
Two days after Election Day, Cowles decreased the vote total and ended up putting the third place candidate, Mike Scott, into second place by one single vote, qualifying him for the November runoff against leading candidate Lawanna Gelzer. Cynthia Harris, who was in second place on Election Day, ended up losing 10 votes and Scott only lost 3 votes causing the flip. But Cowles’ reasoning raises even more red flags about elections in one of Florida’s most important counties.
The Democratic Supervisor of Elections is claiming the initial vote count was incorrect because “someone” in his office improperly fed ballots into the counting machine more than once. That would mean Cowles is admitting that votes can be counted more than once, and that it does happen in Orange County. If the vote margin was wider, would we even know that someone was scanning extra ballots in races? What other races had ballots scanned twice? What else is going wrong under Bill Cowles at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections?
Making matters worse, local Democratic Party officials, including DEC Chair Wes Hodge, showed up to the Supervisor of Elections office to support Scott before the votes were changed. After being identified by witnesses at the office, Hodge later joked with others. “I’m part of the conspiracy,” a laughing Hodge reportedly said according to witnesses.
This raises serious questions about how Cowles is running elections locally. Candidates are claiming there is a “blatant attempt to compromise the integrity of the election results.” To say the least.
But Cowles wasn’t done changing the votes. Perhaps the Supervisor of Elections figured out switching the numbers to a difference of one vote was going to cause problems publicly, perhaps they found more ballots. In fact, Cowles even does claim there was an uncounted “hidden” ballot that was found, and it also benefited Scott.
There were also discrepancies being reported by Harris and her supporters, who have been monitoring the election process. Some precincts had boxes labeled with a certain number of ballots, only to be opened to reveal a different number of ballots inside. It led to confusion and the candidate reported staff making excuses about having to go find out why ballots were missing or misplaced.
Then Cowles’ office said an “unspecified” issue called for an additional “check” to some other ballots in the race, and that whole process also altered the count and raised concerns. At the end of it all, Mike Scott was now somehow six votes ahead of Cynthia Harris for second place.
That’s right – in just one County Commission race, Cowles is saying some ballots were counted more than once, some ballots were “hidden” and then found, and some ballots needed be recounted and re-examined. The vote totals changed multiple times before the runoff was set.
Whether or not Gov. DeSantis gets involved, the Democratic candidate who lost her spot in the runoff plans to fight Cowles.
“The integrity of the election was extremely compromised and I will be taking the necessary action,” Harris told West Orlando News this weekend. “The integrity of all the races has been compromised. How can we have such different numbers? All the numbers have been compromised. Bill Cowles must be removed and an audit of all the races must be conducted for fairness.”
This situation is a nightmare ahead of the midterm elections. It casts a dark cloud over Central Florida and Cowles must be fully investigated.
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