Provisional ballots could shift result of Tampa Bay Senate race
As Pinellas and Hillsborough counties await a state order to begin machine recounts in a close state Senate race, more than 140 still-uncounted provisional ballots also still must be reviewed, adding more drama in Florida's closest race on Tuesday's ballot.
On Wednesday, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, held a lead of 61 votes over Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, in a Democratic primary for Tampa Bay's Senate District 19. Rouson had 10,776 votes and Narain 10,715, for a difference of 61 votes, or less than two-tenths of 1 percent. Secretary of State Ken Detzner must order a machine recount in a multi-county race where unofficial results show two candidates within half of a percentage point.
Rouson ran much stronger in Pinellas and Narain ran stronger in Hillsborough, where Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer's office said Wednesday that about 100 provisional ballots still must be reviewed by a three-member canvassing board at a meeting set for 11 a.m. Thursday.
Hillsborough's web site includes a detailed explanation of provisional ballots. Counties must report their first set of unofficial returns to the state by noon Friday.
Latimer's spokeswoman, Gerri Kramer, said it was not clear how many of Hillsborough's provisionals were cast by Democrats in the Senate race. Pinellas, meanwhile, said it has 43 provisionals, and spokesman Jason Latimer said seven were cast by Democrats in Senate District 19.
The Pinellas canvassing board, chaired by County Judge John Carassas, will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at the elections center in Largo to review those provisional ballots.
Both counties' canvassing boards have already rejected an unknown number of mail ballots for a variety of defects. By law, Narain and Rouson can examine those ballot envelopes and review the boards' decisions.
Narain has retained Tallahassee election law expert Mark Herron to represent him, and Rouson said he's also planning to lawyer up. "We're going to be seeking counsel," Rouson said. "We're working on it."