Florida Recount Watch: Recounts Starting Sunday In Some Counties

Nov 10, 2018
Originally published on November 11, 2018 10:30 pm

Update: 4:30 p.m.

County election offices across Florida are starting to schedule machine recounts for too-close-to-call races for the U.S. Senate and governor races, the agriculture commissioner and three contests in the state legislature.

Broward County, where protests and lawsuits have swirled for days, will be starting the process Sunday morning. Hillsborough County officials said they will begin the process at 9 a.m. Sunday. And while one of the races in Hillsborough - for the state senate District 18 race - is close enough  to trigger a manual ballot review, officials there said a machine recount must take place first.

Shortly after the recount was announced, Democrat Andrew Gillum withdrew his Tuesday night concession in the Florida gubernatorial race.

"I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote," Gillum said at a press conference in Tallahassee on Saturday.

Unofficial election results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Gillum by less than 0.5 percentage points. Under state law, such a margin requires a machine recount of ballots.

Update: 2 p.m.

The Florida secretary of state is ordering recounts in the U.S. Senate and governor races, an unprecedented review of two major races in the state that took five weeks to decide the 2000 presidential election.

Secretary Ken Detzner issued the order on Saturday after the unofficial results in both races fell within the margin that by law triggers a recount.

Just before 2 p.m., the State Division of Elections posted the note "Machine Count Indicated" on three statewide races - Governor, the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner. The recount alert also was posted on three razor-thin races in the Florida Legislature, including Tampa’s District 18 Senate race between Janet Cruz and Dana Young. 

Outside the Broward Canvassing Board meeting room in Plantation, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Nikki Fried reacted to the announcement by declaring herself the winner of the race heading to a recount. She also said Fred Guttenberg, father of one of the students killed earlier this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is on her transitional leadership team as a Co-Vice Chair. Former Congressman Patrick Murphy, a fellow Democrat, will serve as the chairman of the transition.

Updated: 12:40 p.m.

The deadline to submit unofficial vote tallies in Florida's election has passed.

County elections supervisors had until noon Saturday to submit results. Now the state must announce whether recounts are needed in the U.S. Senate and governor races.

As the deadline arrived, Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis led Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5 percentage points in the governor's race, which would require a machine recount of ballots.

In the Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was less than 0.25 percentage points, which would require a hand recount of ballots in which tabulation machines couldn't detect a vote.

Unofficial vote tallies in Florida's elections are due by midday Saturday. Razor-thin margins may prompt Secretary of State Ken Detzner to order recounts in the hotly contested races for governor, U.S. Senate and state Agriculture Commissioner.

Before the deadline, a large crowd gathered outside the Broward elections office holding signs, waving American flags and chanting "USA USA." A man with a bullhorn repeatedly yelled for elections supervisor Brenda Snipes to come out.

Protestors also showed up at elections offices in other counties, including Hillsborough and Orange Counties.

Saturday morning, politicians also continued speaking out for their preferred candidates. During a conference call on behalf of Scott, U.S. Sen Lindsay Graham said the voting problems in Florida "undercuts confidence in the electoral process."

"When it comes to these shenanigans, enough is enough," he said. "We believe Rick Scott won fair and square."

Updated: 7 a.m.

If the Florida Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott requires a recount, there is little worry about it being a repeat of the 2000 presidential debacle. This time there won't be any hanging chads and the process is likely to take days, not a month. The ballots use filled-in bubbles.

The battle for Nelson's Senate seat saw both sides filing lawsuits and trading verbal jabs. Scott has said Nelson is trying to steal the election, while Nelson is accusing Scott of trying to stop elections officials from counting every ballot. President Donald Trump has weighed in on behalf of Scott, calling the situation "a disgrace."

Judges sided with Scott in rulings late Friday ordering election supervisors in the two counties to release information on ballot-counting sought by the governor.

Meanwhile, the Broward Canvassing Board met Friday to review ballots that had been initially deemed ineligible. Lawyers from the campaigns, journalists and citizens crowded into a room to observe the proceedings.

Scott's lead had narrowed by Friday evening to 0.18 percentage points —a lead of less than 15,000 out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast — below the threshold for a recount. Florida law requires a machine recount when the leading candidate's margin is 0.5 percentage points or less, and a hand recount if it's 0.25 or less.

The governor's race between former Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, might also face a recount.

Gillum conceded to DeSantis on Tuesday night, but when the results began to narrow, he said every vote should count. DeSantis has said little about the recount and is instead proceeding as if he won the election, appointing a transition team and preparing to take office in January.

In the race for governor, DeSantis was leading by 0.43 percentage points late Friday.

A third statewide race that could go to a recount — the agriculture commissioner race between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell — is the tightest of all, with Fried holding a 3,120-vote lead, a margin of 0.039 percent.

Scott had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections departments in South Florida's Democrat-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed in ballot-counting that continued through the week. However, a spokeswoman for the agency said Friday that there were no credible allegations of fraud; therefore, no active investigation.

The governor, meanwhile, filed lawsuits in both counties seeking more information on how their ballots were being tallied. Nelson filed his own federal lawsuit Friday, seeking to postpone the Saturday deadline to submit unofficial election results.

Three other state races are looking at a possible recount, including the Tampa State Senate race between Janet Cruz and Dana Young.

WLRN reporter Caitie Switalski contributed to this report.

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