Shades of 2000: With ballots still uncounted, Florida races are going to recounts

If it’s November in the Sunshine State, it must be time for a recount … or two.

The two top races in the state, for governor and senator, seem likely to go to recounts, with less than .5 percent separating the Republican and Democratic candidates, which automatically triggers a new machine count under Florida law. A lead of less than 0.25 percent triggers a hand recount of actual ballots.

As of Thursday afternoon, in the race for governor, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis leads Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum by .47 percent. In the Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is ahead of incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by .22 percent.

Thousands of ballots remain uncounted, according to the Miami Herald, including in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County, where officials have yet to disclose early voting and absentee totals.

Gillum conceded Tuesday night but his campaign released a statement Thursday morning walking it back.

“On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count,” Gillum’s communications director Johanna Cervone said in a statement. “Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount. Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted.”

Having already declared victory, Scott’s campaign has attempted to portray the results as settled.

Left to right: Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Florida governor and Republican senatorial candidate Rick Scott. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: MPI10/MediaPunch/IPX/Getty Images, John Raoux/AP, Jeff Mitchell /Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“This morning, Bill Nelson is introducing the people of Florida to Marc Elias, a hired gun from Washington, D.C., who will try to win an election for Nelson that Nelson has already lost,” Scott’s campaign said in an email Thursday. 

Nelson hired veteran election-law attorney Marc Elias to navigate what is sure to prove a highly contentious process, reminiscent of the battle that decided the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In that race, Florida, which held the balance of power in the Electoral College, was decided in favor of Bush by .01%, or fewer than 1,000 votes, after the Supreme Court halted an ongoing recount.

Florida has since abandoned the punch-ballot voting technology, which required election officials to examine “hanging chads” in an attempt to discern the intent of voters.

“A significant number of ballots have not yet been counted and, because of the size of Florida, we believe the results of the election are unknown and require a recount,” Elias said in a statement Wednesday. 

Election supervisors in Florida’s 67 counties have until 1 p.m. Saturday to send their unofficial results to the secretary of state. If recounts do go forward, the state will find itself under national scrutiny, just as it was in 2000.

“The recounts will be nationally watched,” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner told county elections supervisors Thursday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “[We’re] under a microscope.”

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