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Florida recount timeline: How did we get here?

A week after Election Day, three statewide races remain undecided and in a historical recount. Follow this unprecedented political story from the beginning.
An employee at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office prepares to sort ballots before being counted, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) FLWL108
Published Nov. 13, 2018
Updated Nov. 13, 2018

From the moment election results trickled in Tuesday night, it was clear Florida was headed for a nail-biter. However, no one could have imagined the outcome: Three statewide races that are undecided a week later and in the middle of a recount, including the marquee contests for U.S. Senate and governor.

Here's how the events of the last week have unfolded.

CHRIS URSO | TimesFlorida Governor elect Ron DeSantis waves to supporters while flanked by his wife Casey, left, and Lt. Governor elect Jeanette Nunez after thanking the crowd Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando.

Nov. 6. — Election Day

7 p.m. 

After a day of extraordinary turnout across Florida, the polls close in most of the state, excluding the Panhandle.

8 p.m.

Polls close in the rest of the state. Early results appear favorable to Democrats in many of the top races — but there's a long way to go.

10:57 p.m.

Democrat Andrew Gillum tells supporters in Tallahassee he called Republican Ron DeSantis to congratulate him for winning the Florida race for governor. DeSantis leads Gillum by 77,377 votes.

11:14 p.m.

DeSantis gives victory speech from Orlando: "There's one day in November where elites don't get to call the shots, don't get to craft the narrative or set the agenda. On election day it's the voice of the people that rules."

READ IT: How Ron DeSantis won Florida governor

11:27 p.m.

The Associated Press calls the race for DeSantis.

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott thanks his wife Ann as he speaks to supporters at an election watch party early Wednesday in Naples. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Nov. 7 — Too close to call

12:04 a.m.

Republican Rick Scott claims victory in his U.S. Senate race over Democrat Bill Nelson though the Associated Press has not declared him the winner. Scott holds a 57,671-vote advantage over Nelson.

"We can make change," Scott says. "We did it over the last eight years in Tallahassee, we can do it in Washington, D.C."

Rick Scott declares victory in Florida U.S. Senate race over three-term incumbent Bill Nelson

12:15 a.m.

Nelson campaign manager Pete Mitchell tells a withering Orlando crowd: "This is obviously not the result Senator Nelson's campaign has worked hard for. The senator will be making a full statement tomorrow to thank all those who rallied for his cause."

1:09 a.m.

Nelson campaign releases statement clarifying that the candidate is "waiting for all the votes to be counted."

Supporters of Sen. Bill Nelson react to results in the election at Nelson’s election night party, in downtown Orlando on Tuesday. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

9:55 a.m.

Floridians wake up to a surprise: The races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner, already close, have tightened considerably.

Having narrowed the gap to 34,435-votes overnight, Nelson trails Scott by just 0.42 percentage points, within the range for a state-mandated machine recount. "We are proceeding to a recount," he says in a statement, which also announces he is hiring veteran recount attorney Marc Elias.

Throughout the day, Broward and Palm Beach counties continues to count ballots, much to the chagrin of Republicans, who see their leads dwindle.

BILL NELSON'S MOONSHOT: Can a recount find 30,000 votes to keep his Senate seat from going to Rick Scott?

Volunteers at the Democratic office on Sistrunk Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are calling and texting voters who cast provisional ballots Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Nov. 8 — What’s happening in Broward?

10 a.m.

Florida's chief election officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, tells county elections supervisors to plan for recounts of multiple statewide races. "The recounts will be nationally watched … (we're) under a microscope," Detzner says on a conference call.

10:30 a.m.

With 21,888 votes separating the Senate candidates, Nelson lawyer Elias in a conference call lays out the path to victory: Count all the ballots in South Florida, resolve Broward County undervote problem in a recount, win a majority of provisional ballots.

READ MORE: How Bill Nelson could ultimately win the recount in Florida's Senate race

12:30 p.m.

Protestors, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, convene outside the Broward County supervisor of elections office, demanding to know why officials there continue to count ballots two days after the election has ended. At this point, 65 of the 67 Florida counties have finished counting all but provisional and overseas military ballots. The two that have not are Broward and Palm Beach.

2:06 p.m.

As Broward and Palm Beach counties tally even more votes, Gillum moves within 0.48 percentage points of DeSantis to force a recount.

Meanwhile, in the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried takes the lead over Republican Matt Caldwell.

Gov. Rick Scott addresses the media in a news conference late Thursday. (Steve Bousquet | Times)

8:27 p.m.

In a late-night press conference at the Governor's Mansion, Scott announces he and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are suing Palm Beach and Broward supervisors of elections to gain access to voting data. He also says he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate unspecified acts of voter fraud in those counties.

"I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election," Scott says.

Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin responds: "The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately. Rick Scott's action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation."

Scott leads Nelson by 15,079, DeSantis leads Gillum by 36,219 and Fried leads by 2,896.

Brenda Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections, examines a ballot in Lauderhill, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Days after the election on Tuesday, several midterm races in the state remain extremely tight. (Scott McIntyre/The New York Times)

Nov. 9 — Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits

10:45 a.m.

Nelson lawyer Elias announces lawsuit against the Florida Secretary of State demanding the state count any mail-in and provisional ballots disqualified because of a signature mismatch.

12:36 p.m. 

No, President Trump, they haven't only 'found' votes for Democrats in Florida

1:30 p.m.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it is not investigating Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. FDLE spokeswoman says the Department of State has not received any allegations of voter fraud, and that Scott did not put his request in writing.

3:30 p.m.

Speaking for the first time since the election, Nelson rebuffs Scott criticism of ongoing ballot counting. Scott "isn't telling the truth, which is: votes are not being found; they're being counted," Nelson said.

4:30 p.m.

Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips says Broward election chief Snipes is in violation of Florida public records laws for not fulfilling a request for information by Scott's campaign. Philips orders the county's elections chief to turn over to Scott's campaign for the U.S. Senate an accounting of total ballots cast and a breakdown of votes by category — all due by 7 p.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx orders that any ballot that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher or her staff disqualifies will need to be reviewed by the county's canvassing board. Marx also ordered Bucher to provide a list by 4 p.m. Friday of everyone who voted by provisional ballot.

Later, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida schedules Nelson's lawsuit for Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Caldwell also filed a lawsuit in Broward County to determine if Snipes "illegally included ballots after polls closed" Nov. 6. His campaign also files a public records request for vote counts and emails among Snipes, her team and any third parties regarding ballot counting.

A voting technician sorts ballots at the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections facility in Riviera Beach, Fla., Nov. 10, 2018. Florida’s 67 counties submitted their midterm vote tallies to state elections authorities on Saturday, setting the stage for a recount of three statewide races as the contests for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner came in too close to call. (Scott McIntyre/The New York Times)

Nov. 10 — Recount!

10 a.m.

Election monitors from the Florida Department of Elections stationed in Broward County have seen no evidence of criminal activity in the administration of Tuesday's election, a DOE staffer tells the Miami Herald early Saturday.

This information, presented just hours before elections departments across the state must provide unofficial final results, contradicts allegations of fraud in the Broward elections office made by Scott's attorneys Thursday and echoed by Republican protesters who descended on the headquarters of the Broward elections office Friday.

12 p.m.

All 67 counties report unofficial election results to the Secretary of State.

1:50 p.m.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner orders statewide machine recount of over 8.2 million ballots in races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner.

DeSantis is leading Gillum in the race for governor by 0.41 percent (33,684 votes), Scott is leading Nelson in the Senate race by 0.15 percent (12,562), and Fried is leading Caldwell in the agriculture commissioner race by 0.18 percent (5,326 votes).

Three state legislative races are also headed to recount, including a Tampa Senate contest between House Minority Leader Janet Cruz and incumbent Republican Dana Young. Cruz leads by nearly 300 votes.

3 p.m.

Gillum retracts concession. "I say this recognizing that my fate in this may or may not change."

5 p.m.

Nikki Fried declares victory in agriculture commissioner race with recount still underway and starts planning her transition team.

Mayor Andrew Gillum gets a standing ovation while addressing supporters and urging that they keep politically engaged as the Broward County of Supervisor of Elections Office have only five days to recount cast votes over an entire month leading up to Tuesday’s midterm election. Gillum held a faith-based recount rally inside New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

Nov. 11 — It begins

7 a.m.

Broward County's woes continue on its first day of recount as a series of technical glitches delay for hours the scheduled recount of more than 700,000 ballots cast in the midterm election.

The recount, scheduled to begin at 7 a.m., finally got away — sort of — at 11:23. But officials said no actual counting would begin for hours and possibly days.

FLORIDA'S RECOUNT BEGINS: 'Unlike 2000, we all have the same playbook'

3:30 p.m.

As machine recounts begin in many Florida counties, Scott files new lawsuit requesting that FDLE and the Sheriff's Office impound and secure all voting machines, tallying devices and ballots when not in use during recount.

Machine recounts in Hillsborough County start with little drama

3:35 p.m.

Twenty-two improperly cast ballots, considered void due to mismatched signatures and other violations, were included Saturday in the final vote totals submitted by Broward County to the Florida Secretary of State's office. The illegal votes were part of a batch of 205 provisional ballots that were reviewed by the Broward canvassing board Friday evening.

4:23 p.m.

Pam Bondi asks state police to investigate Rick Scott's claims of voter fraud. But state officials repeat that they've found no evidence of fraud.

Lauderhill police guard the entrance as Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, Judge Betsy Benson and Judge Brenda Carpenter-Toye of the Broward county canvassing board continue to count votes. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Nov. 12 —The counting, and lawsuits, continue

11:30 a.m.

Nelson sues the Florida Department of State in an effort to count vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before polls closed.

Nelson's attorney, Marc Elias says voters should not be disenfranchised because of mail delivery delays that aren't their fault. As an example, he cites the Miami-Dade County postal facility that was evacuated because explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats were processed there.

"Florida's 7 p.m. Election Day receipt deadline for vote by mail ballots burdens the right to vote of eligible voters," the suit said.

MORE: Amid Florida recounts, frustration grows for those whose votes didn't count

12:54 p.m.

Nelson calls on Scott to recuse himself from recount. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause sue to force Scott to do just that.

2 p.m.

Broward County Circuit Judge Jack Tuter turns down Scott's request to "impound and secure" all voting machines in Broward's elections headquarters when they're not being used to recount ballots.

But he offers a compromise: Add three Broward Sheriff's deputies to the current lineup of BSO officers and private security guards overseeing the recount under way at the county's election's center in Lauderhill.

Tuter says he saw no sign of wrongdoing in Broward vote counting and also warns the lawyers for all the candidates engaged in recounts to tone down their political attacks.

2:45 p.m.

The supervisor of elections in Bay County, where Hurricane Michael hit the hardest, acknowledges his office violated orders from Scott and allowed people to vote by fax and email.

5 p.m.

Nelson lawyer Elias says counties should not be forced to finish machine recount by Nov. 15, the date state law mandates counties report second unofficial results to the state. Several counties, including Palm Beach, have expressed they are unlikely to complete the recount by the deadline. Is this the next legal challenge?

Nov. 13 — One day left

10:58 a.m.

After multiple machine issues over several days, Broward County finally begins to recount ballots in the U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner races.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County continues to outpace its neighbors to the north.

How Miami-Dade won the Florida recount race, and why Broward is losing it.