The Florida gubernatorial race is seemingly over – but a recount effort is still ongoing in the Sunshine State.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott leads Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes in the Senate race and is headed to a legally required hand recount, according to Florida’s secretary of state office.
But the governor race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared all but over by Thursday evening, with a machine recount showing the former congressman with a significant enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount. But Gillum – who conceded on Election Night and later retracted it – said the race “is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”
Read on for a look at where we stand with Florida’s two big races and the recount efforts.
So where are we with the Senate race?
After the machine recount, Scott held onto his lead over Nelson by about 12,600 votes, a slim 0.15-percentage point margin that automatically triggers a manual recount.
Counties have until Nov. 18 to submit the results from the recount. Officials will have to count at least 53,769 ballots by hand for the Senate race, according to The Associated Press.
The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson's campaign. But he said he expects it to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.
And the gubernatorial race?
DeSantis leads Gillum by more than 33,600 votes, according to the unofficial results posted on Florida’ secretary of state website. That’s more than enough votes to avoid a manual recount, meaning DeSantis is all but certain to be declared the next governor.
In the recount, Gillum gained just one vote, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Still, he hasn’t conceded.
“A vote denied is justice denied — the State of Florida must count every legally cast vote,” Gillum said in a statement. “As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process.”
DeSantis, meanwhile, said he is preparing “to serve as [Florida’s] next governor.”
“Campaigns of ideas must give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be,” he said. “And to this end, I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state.”
DeSantis has already hired more transition staff as well.
What’s this about voter irregularities?
Florida’s Department of State has called for federal authorities to investigate claims voters were sent the wrong information about deadlines by the state’s Democratic Party.
Democrats are accused of altering official forms to change the deadline to fix – or “cure” – mailed-in ballots deemed to be invalid, according to the Naples Daily News. Thousands of ballots were thrown out due to a signature mismatch, and a judge has extended the deadline for counties to notify those people so they can rectify it if need be.
According to election officials, some voters in four different counties, including Broward, submitted ballots that had altered deadlines for return.
“Making or using an altered form is a criminal offense under Florida law,” said Bradley McVay, the state department’s lawyer, according to the newspaper.
“More fundamentally, altering a form in a manner that provides the incorrect date for a voter to cure a defect (or an incorrect method as it related to provisional ballots) imposes a burden on the voter significant enough to frustrate the voter’s ability to vote,” he said.
Aren’t there a few lawsuits still pending?
A variety of lawsuits have been filed in Florida, some pertaining to signatures on ballots and recount deadlines.
In one suit, the Florida Democrat Party cried foul over absentee ballots deemed invalid because signatures did not match. Judge Mark Walker said Thursday counties have until Saturday afternoon to notify those people so they can rectify the situation.
He declined to extend recount deadlines earlier this week, despite a lawsuit from the Democratic Party which contended some larger counties did not have the means to meet them. Broward County submitted its recount two minutes after the state’s 3 p.m. deadline – making its machine recount tally void. Instead, the county's results from last Tuesday’s election will stand until manual recount totals in the state's closely contested Senate race come in.
Walker has yet to decide on another lawsuit from Florida Democrats which ask for ballots to be counted that were postmarked before Election Day but not received until after.
In another pending case, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause are asking for Scott’s role as governor in the recount efforts to be limited because he is a Senate candidate. The suit wants to bar him from having any influence over the canvassing process or authority to suspend election supervisors.
As for Scott, his campaign sought to have voting machines in Broward and Palm Beach counties impounded by law enforcement when they were not in use. However, a judge in Broward said extra deputies would be stationed at the election office instead. Palm Beach officials agreed to a similar arrangement.
Fox News' Barnini Chakraborty, Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.