All eyes on Florida as machine recount ends

The results of Florida's Senate and governor races hang in the balance Thursday as the state gears up to announce the outcomes of machine recounts in both contests following a 3 p.m. deadline on Thursday.

Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner had ordered the machine recounts for the two races, as well as for agriculture commissioner, as stipulated under state law after results from Nov. 6 showed the candidates in each contest separated by less than 0.5 percentage points.

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The Senate race between incumbent 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) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has garnered the most national attention, with both candidates and their allies jockeying in court over the recount and Florida’s election laws.

Scott appeared on track for a win on Election Day. But as updated vote counts trickled in from Democrat-heavy South Florida last week, his lead evaporated, forcing his race against Nelson into an automatic machine recount.

At the time the recount was called, Scott led by more than 12,500 votes, or about 0.15 percentage points.

If that margin holds, it will trigger a hand recount given that Florida law mandates manual tabulations for any contest where candidates are separated by less than 0.25 percentage points. 

Meanwhile, in the race for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) trailed former Rep. 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 (R) by about 33,000 votes, or 0.41 points. Unless that margin narrows to 0.25 points or less, a hand recount will not be ordered.

Any hand recount would need to 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.

The recounts have ignited bitter partisan and legal fights, with Republicans raising the prospect of voter fraud in Florida.

Meanwhile, Democrats have challenged the state’s voting rules and procedures in an effort to get ballots deemed invalid counted.