Former Florida election official reflects on the controversial 2000 election

HOUSTON, Texas -- As the presidential election drags on, with vote counting under the microscope in five key states, Kurt S. Browning watches with a different perspective.

"I've been there. I've done that. I do not envy them at all. I know exactly what they're going through," said Browning.

Browning served twice as Florida's Secretary of State, once under Gov. Charlie Crist, the second time for Gov. Rick Scott. The position oversees the state's elections. Before that post, he served multiple terms as the Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County, which is just north of Tampa, during the infamous 2000 election.

"I remember standing in the office getting ready to go on a well-deserved weekend because we just finished the election on Tuesday," Browning reminisced. "I was listening to NPR and they reported about a quarter to five that a Florida judge had just ordered recounts for Tuesday's presidential contest and so we had to stop everything. I had to catch people before they left. We had to put teams together and we were recounting ballots the next morning at 10 o'clock."

The entire state went into recount mode, which lasted for 36 days. While Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties were the most controversial, Pasco also had the punch cards with the potential for those hanging chads.

"We had news services from all over the world that wanted to see Pasco County and it was just bizarre. We weren't prepared for that," Browning said.

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Afterward, Florida made many changes to the election law, which included starting the early and mail-in vote-counting before Election Day. Some states, like Pennsylvania, do not start counting until in-person voting is completed.

Dr. Michael Adams, chair of the political science department at Texas Southern University, believes after this election, that may change. Meantime, he urges patience.

"I don't think we should be in a hurry because when you go back to 2000, it took us almost a month for those to come in," Adams told ABC13. "Last I checked, since 1937, Inauguration Day is on Jan. 20 so we have a lot of time and it shouldn't be a rush to judgment."

Browning agrees, and 20 years later, he still remembers the stress of the spotlight and has empathy for the election workers who are still counting.

"You're trying to get your job done and defend the system at the same time. It was total constant pressure," he said.

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