BROOKSVILLE — The margins changed slightly, the results are still the same — but the recount in two Hernando County races will continue.
Retired educator Cynthia Moore was still in the lead over four-term Hernando School Board incumbent Sandra Nicholson, and Ken Fagan was the apparent leader for a second seat on the Spring Hill Fire Rescue board, according to a machine recount of more than 59,000 ballots that ended Tuesday afternoon.
Moore, who had been up by 41 votes at the start of the day, saw her margin shrink to 35 votes. Fagan's margin of seven votes over Guy "Rusty'' Amore shrank to four.
Nicholson and Amore refused to concede, however, triggering a manual recount of ballots that contain so-called over- and undervotes.
On these ballots, the voter either did not make a clear selection or made too many choices. Workers will be checking to make sure that valid votes in the two races were not missed.
Elections Supervisor Annie Williams did not know how many of those ballots there are to check, but by 2:30 p.m., elections staffers had set to work on large piles on a table — and those were just from the absentee ballots. Williams expected the process to run through Wednesday afternoon.
"We're talking thousands" of ballots, she said.
Workers finished the machine recount about 2 p.m.
Because the margins of victory in both races were still less than 0.25 percent, statute requires a check of the over- and under-votes.
County Commission Chairman and elections canvassing board member John Druzbick reached Nicholson by cell phone, while County Attorney Garth Coller walked up to the third floor of the government center, where Amore runs a café.
Both candidates wanted to move forward with the recount.
"I'm on a roll," a laughing Nicholson told the St. Petersburg Times by phone a few minutes later. "I'm gaining ground."
"What's that story about the fat lady?" Amore said. "That's what it's all about. I have nothing to lose. You have to let the process work its way out. Just feed the canvassing board more coffee."
Fagan, who was at the elections office Tuesday, said he understood Amore's decision. "I would have done the same," Fagan said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]