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Recount Underway In Three Florida Races

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

More than half of Florida's 67 counties began recounting votes Sunday in the razor-thin Senate, gubernatorial and agriculture commissioner races, bringing back memories of the 2000 presidential fiasco.

Among the reporting counties is Escambia, where David Stafford is Elections Supervisor.

“The first thing we need to do is review the publication of the meeting,” said Stafford. “We did a conditional public notice of recount.”

The recount in Escambia kicked off at noon, with a three panel board overseeing the start of the logic and accuracy test for about 130,000 ballots – mail-in, early, and in-person – that were cast for Tuesday.

This, Stafford says, is a machine recount.

“The only things that are being recounted today are the three races that we got notice from the Secretary of State,” said Stafford. “The governor’s race; the U.S. Senate race, and the agriculture [commissioner] race. All the other races that appear on the ballot – and there were many – are not involved in this recount at all.”

Unofficial results show that Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in the election for governor. Gillum conceded the race on Election Night, but had a change of heart – and mind – on Saturday.

“I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote,” Gillum said.

State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. Once completed, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Escambia Co. Elections Supervisor David Stafford.

“And I say this recognizing that my fate in this may or may not change,” Gillum said. “What I do know is that every single Floridian who took time to go out to cast their vote deserves the comfort of knowing that in a democratic society and in this process every vote will be counted.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis is sticking by his guns, claiming victory and saying the next step in the transition is underway.

“With the election behind us, it’s now time to come together as a state, as we prepare to serve all Floridians,” DeSantis said. “Since Tuesday night, that is what I have been doing, and that is what I continue to do in the days and weeks ahead as I prepare to take office as the 46th governor of the state of Florida.”

In the Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson stands at 0.14 percentage points.

“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency,” said Scott. “And the supervisors are failing to give it to us.”

Scott is suing elections officials in Broward and Palm Beach Counties – where most of the state’s contested votes are. He alleges — without citing evidence — that they’re trying to "steal" the election for Democrats. He’s also suing Secretary of State Ken Detzner and demanding the state count all provisional and mail-in ballots deemed to have a signature mismatch.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Elections Supervisor David Stafford (C) begins work with the panel overseeing Escambia County's voter recount.

“Both Broward and Palm Beach Counties have failed in their duty to follow Florida law, which requires that vote-by-mail and absentee ballots are counted within 30 minutes of polls closing,” Scott said. “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.”

A request by the Governor to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate whether they are taking too long in vote-counting appears to have fallen on deaf ears. A spokeswoman at FDLE says there are no plans for such an investigation.

Scott saw his lead over Nelson shrink since Election Night. By the end of the day Thursday, Nelson trailed by just 15,000 votes.

“No one should stand in the way of the people of our state, exercising their right to vote, and to have their voice heard,” said Nelson. “Clearly, Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted, and he’s impeding the democratic process.”

Nelson accuses Scott of abusing his public office as governor to stop a complete and accurate counting of all the votes - which would determine whether Scott – or Nelson -- wins or loses.

“The Governor has decided to abandon the most fundamental of all rights because he fears that he will lose the election if all the votes are counted,” Nelson said. “He isn’t telling the truth, which is: votes are not being found, they’re being counted.”

In the third contested race, Democrat Nikki Fried has taken the lead over Republican Matt Caldwell by 575 votes in the race for agriculture commissioner,

While the word “recount” has a certain stigma in Florida going back to the 2000 presidential election debacle – the one with the “hanging chads” – many believe that a recount is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It is a great thing because you’re absolutely insured of the integrity of the vote; the right person wins the election that got the most votes. Who could be against that?” asked retired political scientist Susan MacManus, appearing on WFTS-TV in Tampa.

She adds that the fervor over the 2018 midterms could well extend to 2020.

“It ensures that we’re going to have a very, very interested electorate in the presidential race,” said MacManus. “This is a state that you can truthfully say ‘your vote will make a difference.’”

A machine recount would likely be completed by Thursday, November 15, with further overvote and undervote counting until Sunday November 18.

But the actual timeline for a full, manual recount — which has never happened in Florida, even in 2000 — is unclear.