State orders machine recounts for Governor, U.S. Senate, 4 other races

For the first time in Florida history, multiple statewide recounts will take place simultaneously.
Gillum supporters gathered Saturday at the Broward vote tabulation center in Lauderhill [Caitlin Ostroff - Miami Herald]
Gillum supporters gathered Saturday at the Broward vote tabulation center in Lauderhill [Caitlin Ostroff - Miami Herald]
Published Nov. 10, 2018|Updated Nov. 10, 2018

Florida ordered mandatory machine recounts in three statewide elections Saturday for the first time in state history.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a one-page order directing all 67 counties to conduct a machine recount of more than 8.2 million combined ballots over the next five days in the races for governor, U.S. Senator and commissioner of agriculture.

The state placed a "machine recount indicated" banner in red letters below the first unofficial returns in all three races.

Republican Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum in the race for governor by 0.41 percent (33,684 votes). Republican Rick Scott led Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race by 0.15 percent (12,562). Democrat Nikki Fried led Republican Matt Caldwell in the agriculture commissioner race by 0.18 percent (5,326 votes).

Detzner also ordered machine recounts in razor-close contests for a Tampa state Senate seat and for House seats in Volusia and Palm Beach counties.

All machine recounts must be completed by 3 p.m. next Thursday. Detzner will then order manual recounts if two candidates in any race are separated by .25 percent or less, and if the total number of undervotes and overvotes in any race is greater than the separation between the two candidates in a race.

Shortly after the recounts were ordered, the political jockeying began.

Scott's campaign spokesman, Chris Hartline, blast emailed a statement that encouraged Nelson to decline a recount.

"The voters of Florida have spoken and Rick Scott was elected to the United States Senate in a close but decisive victory," Hartline said. "The margin of victory is larger than any recount since 2000 has ever closed, with the average recount changing the outcome by just a few hundred votes. It's time for Senator Nelson to accept reality and spare the state of the Florida the time, expense and discord of a recount."

That seemed unlikely, considering Nelson's recount attorney tweeted out Detzner's order with a hopeful comment that more votes are out there.

In a Saturday afternoon news conference, Gillum and his elections lawyer, Barry Richard, issued yet another call that votes be counted fully after a machine recount was ordered by the Florida Secretary of State.

"There are still votes that are outstanding," said Gillum, "even some uncertainty around the total number of votes" left to be accounted for.

He called out comments from President Donald Trump, outgoing Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, "calling for the ending of the counting in this process."

"In America we count every vote regardless of what the outcome may be," Gillum said. He added some had cited his concession on election night to ending the recount process: "I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote," he said. "I say this recognizing my fate in this may or may not change. What I do know is that every single Floridian who took time to go out to cast their vote, to participate in this process deserves the comfort of knowing in a democratic society in this process every vote will be counted."

After Gillum left the stage without taking questions, Richard, who represented Bush in the 2000 recount, said the current situation differed substantially from that presidential election, largely because the recount process is now automatic rather than triggered by lawsuit.

Asked if Gillum would accept a DeSantis win should the machine recount end with a result outside the quarter of a percentage margin needed for an additional hand count, Richard said the mayor "is not waiving any legal right he has to ensure all the votes are counted." He added if there was evidence votes had not been counted they would consider further legal action.

He declined repeatedly to comment on the likelihood that the machine recount might yield enough overvotes and undervotes to help trigger an additional manual count in the governor's race.

DeSantis allies mocked Gillum's support for the recount.

In a statement issued later, DeSantis said he wasn't waiting for any further tabulations.

"With the election behind us, it's now time to come together as a state as we prepare to serve all Floridians," DeSantis said Saturday afternoon. "Since Tuesday night, that is what I have been doing and that is what I will continue to do in the days and weeks ahead as I prepare to take office as the 46th Governor of the State of Florida."

The Democrat who ran strongest in a statewide campaign, Nikki Fried, declared victory. Her opponent, Republican Matt Caldwell, has sued Broward on allegations that ballots were illegally included after polls closed on Election Day.

Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Broward were scheduled to begin their recounts on Sunday.

Miami-Dade, the largest county in Florida, started Saturday night.

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