BROOKSVILLE — The focus of Hernando County's 2010 general election changed from voting precincts to the Supervisor of Elections Office on Wednesday as officials pored over ballots to try to determine winners in two tight races.
After the canvassing board counted provisional, absentee and touch-screen ballots, Tuesday's unofficial results remained essentially unchanged: Cynthia Moore had more votes than four-term incumbent Sandra Nicholson in the District 5 School Board race, and Ken Fagan was ahead of Rusty Amore in the race for a second seat on the Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission.
But both races are still headed for recounts.
After Wednesday's ballot review, Moore's 41-vote advantage over Nicholson remained unchanged, even though the number of total votes cast in the race increased by 108 to 50,681. That's a margin of victory of 0.08 percent.
Fagan's one-vote lead over Amore increased to seven, with the total number of votes cast increasing by 121, to 42,581. That's a margin of victory of 0.02 percent.
State law requires a recount when the margin is less than one-half of 1 percent.
Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams, County Commission Chairman John Druzbick and County Judge Donald Scaglione worked together to oversee the review of 128 ballots — 60 absentee ballots, 39 provisional ballots, 11 ballots that were not scanned by machines at polling places and 18 touch-screen ballots that had not been included in Tuesday's results.
Voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots when their eligibility is questioned at the polls. Ballots typically aren't scanned when there is damage to the ballot or because a voter requested another ballot, Williams said.
If the margins of victory after the machine recount are still less than one-quarter of 1 percent, there will be a manual recount of the so-called over-votes and under-votes, Williams said. These are ballots that were not counted because a voter did not make a selection in the race or filled in more than one choice. The review is done to verify that the ballots were properly discarded, she said.
After that, the elections will be considered final and then certified.
Williams said she is still unsure of a timetable for the recounts. They could happen by the end of the week, she said.
Fagan was the second-highest vote-getter in a field of six candidates vying for two seats on the fire board. Political newcomer Sherry Adler won 25.1 percent; Fagan got 19.66 percent. Both have been outspoken critics of the current board and regular attendees of board meetings.
"I'm not ready to declare victory," a smiling Fagan said as he left the elections office Wednesday afternoon.
"What's most important is that 55 percent (of voters) said they wanted change," he said, referring to the total percentage of voters who picked him, Adler and Harry Chamberlain, another critic of the board.
Moore was a little less cautious. She took as a omen the fact that her margin of apparent victory had not changed from 41 votes.
"It's supposed to be," she said.
Nicholson, who also showed up at the elections office to watch the canvassing board, was not ready to concede Wednesday, though.
"We want to make sure everything is kosher," she said.
Amore said also will wait to see how the recount turns out.
"I don't want to say nothing," he said. "It's an ongoing process as far as I'm concerned. There's not much else I can do at this point."
Staff writers Barbara Behrendt and Logan Neill contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.