By the narrowest of margins — just five votes — businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick appears to have won a South Florida Democratic primary to replace the late US Rep. Alcee Hastings in Washington, according to official results reported by the counties.
The outcome in the November 2 election had been up in the air until Friday evening, when the Broward County canvassing board reviewed more than a dozen overseas ballots that were postmarked on Election Day and arrived within the 10-day window to be legally counted.
Cherfilus-McCormick had carried a two-vote advantage over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness into Friday after machine and manual recounts of the results. She picked up three more votes during the counting of overseas ballots, at the conclusion of which Broward County Elections Supervisor Joe Scott declared it was “fair to say (Cherfilus-McCormick) is the apparent winner of the Democratic primary.”
With her victory Friday, Cherfilus-McCormick is now likely to succeed Hastings, who died in April at age 84 after a two-year fight with pancreatic cancer. In 2020, President Joe Biden won 77% of the vote in the solidly blue district, which spans parts of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
Cherfilus-McCormick will first face Jason Mariner, who won the Republican primary earlier this month, in a January 11 special election.
During Friday’s meeting, the canvassing board rejected a handful of ballots from military voters and their spouses and dependents because the ballots didn’t include evidence that the voters lived outside the United States, as required by state law.
In an interview with CNN earlier Friday, Scott said his office had been forced to reject more than 270 mail-in ballots because they had arrived after Election Day. The tally represented more than enough votes to swing the race.
State law requires domestic mail-in ballots to arrive on or before Election Day in order to count. Scott said one ballot was postmarked October 21 but did not arrive until after November 2. He called on the state legislature to follow the lead of some states that allow election officials to count ballots postmarked by Election Day no matter when they arrive.
“There are simple fixes to make it easier to vote but there doesn’t seem to be any interest in that these days,” Scott said.
Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness emerged as the top choices for voters in a crowded primary to replace Hastings, a civil rights icon and the state’s first Black federal judge. The race for the relatively safe blue seat attracted 11 Democrats, including state Reps. Bobby Dubose and Omar Hardy.
The Hastings family endorsed Holness, but he was outspent 10 to 1 by the self-funded Cherfilus-McCormick, who pumped a staggering $3.7 million into her race. Cherfilus-McCormick had mounted unsuccessful primary challenges against Hastings for the seat in 2018 and 2020.
Florida Democrats have expressed displeasure at Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, for scheduling the election so long after Hastings’ death, leaving the majority Black district without representation for nine months.
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