Florida to hold recount of US Senate and governor votes

Republicans lead in both races by fractions of a point

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Saturday 10 November 2018 21:58 GMT
Florida has declared a recount of votes cast in the governor and US Senate races
Florida has declared a recount of votes cast in the governor and US Senate races (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Three days after the election, Florida has ordered a machine recount to be done in the gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis as well as the US Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott, who is also the current governor.

Mr Scott currently leads Mr Nelson by just 12,500 votes – or 0.15 per cent – while Mr DeSantis holds a 0.41 per cent, or approximately 34,000 vote, lead over Mr Gillum, who is attempting to become the state’s first African American governor.

Both races were originally called for the Republicans but as a result of the recount Mr Gillum has withdrawn his concession.

A third race, for agricultural commissioner, will also be recounted, which requires a machine recount when candidates are separated by less than 0.5 per cent and a recount by hand if that difference is less than 0.25 per cent.

The deadline for the machine recount to be completed is 15 November at 1500 local time [2000 GMT].

For Mr Scott and Mr Nelson’s race, the hand count will take place after the machine recount and will be focused on ballots with “overvotes”, when voters selected more than the maximum number of candidates or options in a particular category, and “undervotes”, when voters have chosen less than the required number of candidates or options in that ballot section.

“It’s time for Senator Nelson to accept reality and spare the state of Florida the time, expense and discord of a recount,” Mr Scott’s spokesperson Chris Hartline said, noting Mr Nelson can choose to opt out of a recount.

Governor Rick Scott: Floridians should be concerned about 'rampant fraud' during midterm vote counting

There are no indications from Mr Nelson’s camp that he will do so.

Cries of voter fraud and voter suppression have rung out from Republicans and Democrats respectively.

Mr Nelson’s campaign has filed a lawsuit against the state which alleged its process for validating vote-by-mail ballots relied too heavily on the ”untrained opinions” of poll workers to match signatures on such ballots, according to his campaign lawyer Marc Elias.

Mr Elias said it led to “complete lack of uniformity” in judgement if the ballot matched the signature on file with the state, adding: ”This serves as an outright disenfranchisement and burden on the right to vote.”

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Mr Scott fuelled the tensions further with a televised press conference ahead of the machine recount decision.

He called out “rampant fraud” but offered no proof it was a problem in the election.

He added: “Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties.”

He and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are suing the counties’ boards of elections supervisors, seemingly for following state law regarding vote recounts.

Mr Scott alleged Dr Brenda Snipes in Broward has not properly turned over ballot count information to the state and claimed Susan Bucher in Palm Beach County did not allow observers to watch absentee ballots being counted.

Voter fraud does not appear to be a problem according to the Brennan Center at New York University, which found through its research that there have been only 31 instances of voter fraud in the last one billion votes cast.

Mr Scott did not want a recount at all since his lead was decreasing as more and more absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

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He said: “Every day since the election, the leftwing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere. We all know what is going on. Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to mysteriously keep finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want.”

The governor then asked the Florida state police to investigate the matter, adding: “No ragtag group of liberal activists or lawyers from DC will be allowed to steal this election from the voters of this great state.”

Donald Trump, who had campaigned more in Florida than in any other state because it is crucial to his 2020 re-election bid, also weighed in on the matter, saying those counties were “finding votes ... Out of the wilderness” in Florida and Arizona, where another incredibly narrow Senate race is taking place between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Krysten Sinema.

He also said Republicans “won easily” in Florida and pointed to the “horrible history” in Broward County, in particular.

Broward County is infamously where the incident of “hanging chads” on paper ballots occurred during the 2000 presidential election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W Bush.

The chaotic recount that year took days and ultimately ended with Mr Bush becoming president after a Supreme Court ruling.

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