Florida has five days to tally more than 8 million ballots

Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum are still racing.
Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum are still racing.
Image: Reuters/Wilfredo Lee
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Florida elections have been notorious since 2000, when a difference of just 537 votes between presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore prompted a recount that led to endless analysis of the state’s ballots. Now, the Nov. 6 midterm elections are bringing back bad memories for some and keeping hope alive for Democratic voters whose candidates narrowly lost in three races.

Today (Nov. 10), Florida secretary of state Ken Detzner ordered recounts in the three elections, triggering a mad scramble to meet the Nov. 15 deadline in the state’s 67 counties. A recount is now underway in the race for US Senate between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott; in the contest for state governor between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis; and in the quest for the position of agricultural commissioner between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell.

Republicans had already claimed victory in all three races. However, Florida law mandates a recount if the margin in any given race is 0.5% or less. Counties now have more than 8.3 million ballots to count in the five days before the deadline for a final tally.

In Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, more than 800,000 ballots will have to be recounted. Elections Supervisor Christina White told the Miami Herald she’s planning 24-hour shifts for the machine recount and has ordered high-speed ballot-counting machines from Omaha to supplement the eight the county currently has. “There is literally not enough time to scan 813,000 ballots in the five days we have” without the new machines, which are expected to arrive on Monday, White said. “Mathematically, it’s impossible.”

The recount announcement prompted accusations of election theft from US president Donald Trump, who is in Europe to celebrate the end of World War 1. He tweeted his displeasure at the decision to recount ballots in what is arguably his home away from home. Trump’s Mar-a-lago resort is in Palm Beach County, along with one of his golf courses, and he visited the state a few times right before the November election to show support for DeSantis and Scott. Trump does not appear overly concerned with the race between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell for agriculture commissioner, ignoring it in his recent accusatory tweet.

The total vote count, according to state officials, after receiving the unofficial final tallies from counties showed DeSantis leading Gillum by 33,684 votes, a difference of .41%; Scott leading Nelson by 12,562 votes, a difference of .15%, and Fried leading Caldwell by 5,326 votes, a difference of .06%. These narrow margins triggered the mandatory recount and could trigger yet another after Nov 15.

But Republicans have already been crying foul play. Scott’s campaign on Nov. 9 filed lawsuits against Broward county supervisor Brenda Snipes and against Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach county supervisor, alleging they failed to comply with state public-records and elections laws. Meanwhile Caldwell has also sued Snipes in Broward. And Trump that day tweeted that Gillum and Nelson had already conceded their races, making any recount “an embarrassment to Democracy and our Country.”

Yesterday, Gillum responded to Trump’s claim with a tweet of his own, saying that what is embarrassing to democracy is if not every vote gets counted. Today, after the recount was officially announced Gillum said on Twitter that he’s replacing his concession with an unapologetic call to count every vote.

And that’s exactly what the counties will have to do. If, by Nov. 15, elections supervisors send their recount totals back to the state and the margins are within 0.25%, a manual recount will occur. Losing parties can request that the election be ended with no manual tallying. But that seems unlike to happen, given how invested the candidates, state, and the nation all are in these Florida races.