After at least one, possibly two recounts today, two Orange County commission seats will be decided in runoff elections in November. Who will compete against community activist Lawant to Gelzer, who won the seven-candidate primary campaign, needs to be determined in Commission District 6, which encompasses the International Drive tourism route and much of Pine Hills?
After a two-day canvassing board examination, Michael Scott, who came in second, and Cynthia Harris, who took third, are separated by one vote.
District 4, which contains Lake Nona and the neighborhoods of Avalon Park South, Eastwood, and Waterford Lakes, may also require a recount. The district extends across southern Orange from the Brevard County line to Hunters Creek’s eastern side. In the three-candidate race, incumbent Maribel Gomez Cordero received 47.78% of the vote but fell 550 votes short of being reelected. No candidate in each of the two multi-candidate races received more than 50% of the vote, necessitating runoffs in both districts.
Following a review of invalid and suspicious ballots, the final, unofficial results for District 6 were posted late Thursday on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website. Gelzer received 3,454 votes or about 19.37% of the total cast; Scott received 3,149 votes or 17.66%, and Harris received 3,148 votes or 17.65%. The 54-year-old Harris, who runs the nonprofit Carson-Chaney House Inc. and identifies as a community advocate, contested the results and announced intentions to conduct a press conference today morning at 10 at the offices of the Elections Supervisor.
She texted the Orlando Sentinel at two in the morning with the statement, “There is an election integrity crisis, but not the one Republicans say. The goal of this news conference is to draw attention to the obvious attempt to tamper with the validity of the results of the Orange County Commissioner District 6 campaign. Harris had a six-vote advantage against Scott, the 40-year-old coordinator of Orlando’s My Brother’s Keeper mentorship program when the canvassing board started looking at uncounted, provisional ballots.
Throughout the two-day evaluation, Harris, and Scott were present at different times. Despite the fact that commission elections are nonpartisan, District 6’s candidates were all Democrats. Less than 16% of the 112,076 eligible district voters participated in the low turnout. The three members of the canvassing panel, as required by state law, were Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson, who replaced Mayor Jerry L. Demings since he was a candidate on the ballot for the Aug. 23 election, Orange County Judge Steve Jewett, and Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles.
Vote-by-mail ballots returned in envelopes with no signature are examples of ballots that have historically been rejected due to signature difficulties, while ballots can be challenged and rejected for a variety of reasons. The canvassing board also looked at ballots that the tabulating computers had rejected as “undervotes,” which were ballots that showed no vote for any candidate, and “overvotes,” which occurred when voters marked their ballots for two or more candidates when they should have done so for just one.
In District 6, 1,419 voters did not select a candidate for the commission, and another 26 selected more than one. According to the final results, the candidates who came in second through fifth place were separated by 244 votes. In the three-candidate primary, incumbent Maribel Gomez Cordero received 47.78% of the vote in District 4, which covers the Lake Nona region as well as all of southeast Orange County to the county lines of Brevard and Osceola. She fell 550 votes shy of being reelected. She will probably compete against Mercedes Fonseca, the assistant to previous commissioner Pete Clarke.
Following the evaluation by the canvassing board, Fonseca has an unofficial lead of 122 votes over Pearson, who works in the banking sector. If the margin of difference is less than 0.5 percent of the total number of voters in the race, a recount is required.
In the District 4 primary, 124 votes constitute 0.5 percent. Additionally, only 16.88% of the 146,758 eligible voters in District 4 cast ballots, or 24,773.
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