Florida Senate race heads to a hand recount

The Florida Senate race between Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMcCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate Bill Nelson uses farewell address to remind colleagues ‘no one person is above the law’ Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-Fla.) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) is heading to a hand recount after the latest round of machine tallies showed the two candidates still neck and neck.

Nelson and Scott were separated by a margin of about 0.15 percentage points, according to results of a machine recount released Thursday – a narrow enough margin to trigger a hand recount under state law.

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The hand recount must be completed by Sunday, in time for a Nov. 20 deadline for state officials to certify the final election results.

A manual recount does not mean that every ballot is counted by hand. Instead, local election officials will sort through so-called overvotes and undervotes – ballots on which voters marked either more or fewer than the maximum number of selections allowed.

In Broward County alone, there are some 23,000 overvotes and undervotes that must be sorted through by hand, according to Marc Elias, the lead recount lawyer for Nelson. He said that a hand recount will determine whether poor ballot design caused the undervotes or if they are the product of another issue, like machine errors.

“That will ultimately, I believe not only narrow the margin [between Nelson and Scott], but reverse it entirely,” he argued in a conference call with reporters on Thursday evening. “This is what we’ve been seeking all along, because this is where people lay eyes on the ballots.”

The race for agriculture commissioner is also heading for a hand recount after results on Thursday showed both candidates separated by just 0.06 points.

But the recount in Florida gubernatorial race showed Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report GOP opens door to new NC election amid fraud claims Gillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report MORE maintaining a lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum of about 0.41 points – over the threshold required for a hand recount. 

Gillum isn't conceding yet. The Tallahassee mayor said on Thursday that tens of thousands of votes were not tallied in the recount, leaving the race up in the air.

"As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted," Gillum said in a statement. "We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process."

In fact, some counties failed to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline for submitting unofficial machine recount results.

Florida will not use results from Broward County's machine recount because the office submitted its results two minutes past the deadline. 

In Palm Beach County, ballot-counting machine malfunctions this week forced officials to recount roughly 175,000 votes. Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher had said previously that the county would likely not complete the machine recount in time, describing her office as being in “prayer mode.”

Nelson’s campaign is suing to force a hand recount of all ballots in Palm Beach due to the mechanical errors.

Hillsborough County also missed the deadline after the recount turned up 846 fewer votes than the initial count last week. Craig Latimer, the county’s supervisor elections, said that two power outages on Wednesday put one of the vote-counting machines out of use, and that election officials were working to determine what may have happened in the tabulating process.

“Conducting a full recount in a constricted time period is extremely challenging,” Latimer said. “We are forced to recreate in four days what takes place over a course of weeks.”

Elias, the attorney for Nelson’s campaign, also said that Lee County and Broward were unable to submit complete recount results to the state.

Scott has sought to cast himself as the clear victor in the race, even attending an orientation event for new members of Congress in Washington this week.

Both Nelson and Scott’s campaigns have recruited tens of thousands of volunteers for the recount effort, dispatching them across the state to monitor the recount process. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has also sent dozens of staffers to Florida for the recount work.

The recount efforts in Florida have been marked by Republican accusations of fraud and a string of lawsuits from Democrats challenging some of the state’s election rules and procedures, such as the process by which officials evaluate provisional and mail-in ballots.

U.S. District Judge Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerCharities fear hit from Trump tax law during holidays Dems seek to overhaul voting rules in Florida legal fight  Election Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority MORE in Tallahassee handed a partial legal win to Nelson on Thursday, ruling that the state’s signature-matching statute for evaluating provisional and mail-in ballots lacks constitutional standing and giving voters two more days to correct mismatched signatures.

Scott’s campaign filed an appeal of that decision with the Atlanta-based Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday. That appeal, as well as a request to stay Walker’s decision, was rejected Thursday evening.

But Walker also rejected a request by Nelson’s campaign to extend the recount deadlines, stating that he had not been given sufficient information about when Palm Beach officials planned to finish their recount to grant a delay.

“This Court must be able to craft a remedy with knowledge that it will not prove futile,” Walker wrote in a ruling Thursday. “It cannot do so on this record. This Court does not and will not fashion a remedy in the dark.”

Updated: 6:42 p.m.