Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Election workers in Florida are racing toward a Thursday 3 p.m. deadline to finish a recount that has thrust the Sunshine State back into the national spotlight.
Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less will trigger a recount. Three fit the bill with two – the race for U.S. senator and governor – in the national spotlight.
The undecided races include the state’s Senate race, which pits incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, against outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and the gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis.
On Wednesday, Scott announced he will recuse himself from certifying the results of his own election. Nelson, as well as other prominent Democrats, had called on Scott to pull out of his role on the canvassing commission- a three-member board that signs off on the state’s election results.
Florida officially declared a recount Saturday and since then, the state’s 67 county election offices have been racing against time running their ballots through the tallying machine. Some counties only have a few thousand votes but the likes of Miami-Dade has more than 800,000 and Broward clocks in around 700,000.
Overall, 8.2 million votes were cast.
Some smaller counties have already completed their recount but problems are popping up in unexpected locations.
Tuesday night, election officials in Palm Beach County reported their counting machines broke down and that all early voting tallies in the U.S. Senate race need to be recounted.
Susan Bucher, the county’s supervisor of elections, said that two mechanics have been flown in to fix the machines while election workers continue the recount. She also said the Thursday deadline the state has imposed will be impossible to meet, despite a 24-hour operation.
Over in Broward County, a late start, human error and the blame game have hampered its recount efforts.
So where does Florida stand and what’s next?
The state’s 67 counties have until 3 p.m. Thursday to recount 8.2 million votes. If some counties fail to re-submit vote totals by the deadline, the elections will default to the election night results.
Should election officials continue counting if they miss the deadline?
Yes. If counties fail to meet the Thursday deadline, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner says they should continue counting so that final tallies can be included in official state results.
What about a hand recount?
If Thursday’s recount results fall within a quarter point, the state will order a hand recount. This will likely be the case in the race for Senate which is already within that margin. If a hand recount is triggered, county officials have three more days to count. Their next deadline is noon on November 18.
Are all votes recounted in a manual recount?
No. The only votes counted are those marked as undervotes or overvotes. An undervote occurs when the voter made no choice or made fewer than the maximum number allowed on the ballot. An overvote takes place when the voter picked more choices than the maximum number allowed in a race.
When is the final deadline?
The Election Canvassing Commission, made up of Scott and two cabinet members, will meet to certify the final results at 9 a.m. on November 20.
So it’s a done deal?
Not quite. There are several factors in play that could still derail the schedule. Multiple lawsuits have been filed, including one asking to extend deadlines. Republicans, including President Trump, have accused Democrats of trying to steal the election and say they will use everything in their arsenal to force Florida to stick to deadlines. Democrat argue that every vote cast should be counted. Even after the November 20 deadline, the saga is sure to take another turn and drag on.