(1) As soon as the polls are closed, the election board shall secure the voting devices against further voting. The election board shall thereafter, in the presence of members of the public desiring to witness the proceedings, verify the number of voted ballots, unused ballots, provisional ballots, and spoiled ballots to ascertain whether such number corresponds with the number of ballots issued by the supervisor. If there is a difference, this fact shall be reported in writing to the county canvassing board with the reasons therefor if known. The total number of voted ballots shall be entered on the forms provided. The proceedings of the election board at the precinct after the polls have closed shall be open to the public; however, no person except a member of the election board shall touch any ballot or ballot container or interfere with or obstruct the orderly count of the ballots.
(2) The Department of State shall, in accordance with s. 101.015, adopt rules that provide safeguards for the counting of votes at a precinct and at a central or regional location. (3) The results of ballots tabulated at precinct locations may be transmitted to the main computer system for the purpose of compilation of complete returns. The security guidelines for transmission of returns shall conform to rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to s. 101.015.
(4) If ballot cards are used, and separate write-in ballots or envelopes for casting write-in votes are used, write-in ballots or the envelopes on which write-in ballots have been cast shall be serially numbered, starting with the number one, and the same number shall be placed on the ballot card of the voter. This process may be completed at either the precinct by the election board or at the central counting location. For each ballot or ballot and ballot envelope on which write-in votes have been cast, the canvassing board shall compare the write-in votes with the votes cast on the ballot card; if the total number of votes for any office exceeds the number allowed by law, a notation to that effect, specifying the office involved, shall be entered on the back of the ballot card or in a margin if voting areas are printed on both sides of the ballot card. Such votes shall not be counted. All valid votes shall be tallied by the canvassing board.
(5) If any absentee ballot is physically damaged so that it cannot properly be counted by the automatic tabulating equipment, a true duplicate copy shall be made of the damaged ballot in the presence of witnesses and substituted for the damaged ballot. Likewise, a duplicate ballot shall be made of an absentee ballot containing an overvoted race or a marked absentee ballot in which every race is undervoted which shall include all valid votes as determined by the canvassing board based on rules adopted by the division pursuant to s. 102.166(4). All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled “duplicate,” bear a serial number which shall be recorded on the defective ballot, and be counted in lieu of the defective ballot. After a ballot has been duplicated, the defective ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with the other ballots for that precinct.
(6) If there is no clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice for an office or ballot measure, the elector’s ballot shall not be counted for that office or measure, but the ballot shall not be invalidated as to those names or measures which are properly marked.
(7) Absentee ballots may be counted by automatic tabulating equipment if they have been marked in a manner which will enable them to be properly counted by such equipment.
(8) The return printed by the automatic tabulating equipment, to which has been added the return of write-in, absentee, and manually counted votes and votes from provisional ballots, shall constitute the official return of the election upon certification by the canvassing board. Upon completion of the count, the returns shall be open to the public. A copy of the returns may be posted at the central counting place or at the office of the supervisor of elections in lieu of the posting of returns at individual precincts.
(9) Any supervisor of elections, deputy supervisor of elections, canvassing board member, election board member, or election employee who releases the results of any election prior to the closing of the polls in that county on election day commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.