Counting provisionals, with a speakership at stake
Whether Republican state Rep. Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary ever becomes speaker of the Florida House will depend in part on a stack of about 600 provisional ballots sitting in an office on East Airport Boulevard in Sanford.
On Thursday afternoon, Seminole County's three-member canvassing board will convene to review those ballots and decide which of them should be counted in the race for House District 29, where Democrat Mike Clelland holds a precarious 37-vote lead over Dorworth with more than 72,000 votes counted.
Dorworth is on the verge of becoming a rare figure in state politics -- a legislator defeated for re-election after his colleagues have chosen him to be speaker (for the 2014-2016 term). The last time it happened was in 1988, when Democrat Sam Bell of Ormond Beach lost his seat.
"We want this election to be decided, one way or the other," said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel. "It's not fair to the candidates."
Ertel said most of the provisionals awaiting review were cast by so-called out-of-county voters -- people who have moved to Seminole from another Florida county but had not updated their address for voting purposes. Dorworth was among the lawmakers who voted in favor of a change to state election laws to require such voters to vote provisionally for the first time.
Most of those ballots will be accepted as valid, Ertel said: "Absent any evidence of them having voted in another county, the provisionals will count."
He said he expects both candidates to be there with lawyers, as well as a representative of President Barack Obama's Florida campaign and the Central Florida news media. And if the provisional ballot count ends with less than half of 1 percentage point separating the two candidates, Ertel said, the next step will be a machine recount of all of the ballots, which will take place on Sunday.
If Dorworth loses his seat, one name already circulating as a possible replacement is Rep. Steve Crisafulli of Brevard County.