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Facing national microscope again, Florida braces for several recounts

In a 'here we go again' atmosphere, elections officials talk recount standards, media scrutiny, security and other issues.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's chief legal officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, told county election supervisors Thursday to plan for statewide recounts and for extraordinary public and media scrutiny in the state with the singular status of unusually close elections.

"The recounts will be nationally watched … (we're) under a microscope," Detzner said on a conference call with counties. Detzner did not specify a number of races.

Statewide races for U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture are within the machine recount window of half of 1 percent, according to incomplete and unofficial statewide returns. A third race, for governor, is at present slightly outside that threshold.

Detzner's boss, Gov. Rick Scott, is at the center of one of those possible recounts. Scott declared victory over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson late on Tuesday in the Senate race, but the two men were separated on Thursday morning by .26 percent of more than 8 million votes.

Florida was the center of the political universe in 2000 for a 35-day ordeal following a presidential election that ended with George W. Bush winning the presidency by 537 votes over Al Gore.

These are the first statewide recounts since the case of Bush v. Gore, which prompted Florida to switch from antiquated paper punch-card ballots to touch screen machines that were soon discarded and replaced with the current system of optical-scan paper ballots.

Okaloosa Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux offered encouraging words for his colleagues, many of whom have never experienced a statewide recount.

"Don't worry about what's going outside your own borders," he told them. "This is not the state that people continue to make fun of when it comes to recounts."