The Slatest

Florida Officially Orders Statewide Recount in Senate and Governor’s Races

A worker feeds ballots into a tabulation machine, with many cardboard boxes on the shelves in the background.
An elections worker feeds ballots into a tabulation machine at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida, on Nov. 10.
Joe Skipper/Getty Images

The two marquee races in Florida remain so tight they are officially headed toward a recount, the state secretary of state, Ken Detzner—an appointee of current Florida governor and Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott—announced Saturday. As the state begins its second tally, the original count in the Senate race gives Scott an ever-so-slim 12,500-vote lead of 8 million votes cast over Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. That amounts to a 0.15 percent advantage. In the similarly tight race to replace Scott as governor, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis is out in front of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by nearly 34,000 votes or 0.41 percent.

The recounts seemed inevitable as the races tightened in the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote and became a certainty after the noon deadline Saturday for county election supervisors to submit their results passed with both races within the 0.5 percent margin that legally mandates a recount. In the governor’s race, which stands at a 0.4 percent margin, a legally required machine recount will be undertaken. In the Senate race, because it’s closer than 0.25 percent, an additional hand recount is required by law of votes that were not initially counted by the voting machines for whatever reason. Some of those may be blank, filled in partially, incorrectly, or just misread by the machine. The machine recount must be completed by Thursday at 5 p.m.

“In Broward and Palm Beach counties Saturday morning, attorneys from both parties quibbled over ballots in which the intent or eligibility of the voter was in doubt as the minutes ticked toward a noon deadline,” the Washington Post reports. “Officials from both parties have focused much of their ire on Brenda Snipes, supervisor of elections in Broward County, Florida’s second-largest county and the site of the ‘hanging chads’ and other ballot irregularities during the 2000 presidential recount.” The Florida Department of State has sent monitors to Broward County, which had tallied more than 700,000 votes as of Thursday afternoon, stemming from a lawsuit over the county’s mishandling of 2016 congressional race ballots. Scott and, unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump have floated theories and warnings about voter fraud that have been rebutted by the Department of State, which said it had “no evidence of criminal activity at this time.”

Both campaigns have done what campaigns on the leading and trailing ends of too-close-to-call contests do. “It’s time for Senator Nelson to accept reality and spare the state of the Florida the time, expense and discord of a recount,” said Scott spokesman Chris Hartline. Whereas the Nelson campaign issued a statement calling for all the votes to be counted. “We have every expectation the recount will be full and fair and will continue taking action to ensure every vote is counted without interference or efforts to undermine the democratic process,” the statement reads. “We believe when every legal ballot is counted we’ll win this election.”

Further complicating matters in the Senate race is a potential ballot design flaw that may have caused tens of thousands of voters to skip over the Senate contest in Broward County, which was buried underneath the ballot instructions. Roughly 10,000 fewer people voted in Broward County in the Senate race than for the commissioner of agriculture or the chief financial officer race, which is unusual. If tens of thousands of voters mistakenly skipped over the Senate race, that appears to be tough luck for Nelson and something that will obviously need to be remedied in the future. Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, however, has suggested the undervote is due to the voting machines failing to detect legitimate votes. If that is the case, then the gap will likely close substantially.