TAMPA — In a state full of recounts, Hillsborough County will hold a manual recount on Friday in its own too-close-to-call race, the District 18 state senate battle between incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young and Democratic challenger Janet Cruz.
Cruz still has 50.09 percent of the vote. Her 104,001 votes is just 376 ahead of Young. Those unofficial election results showed just a 0.18 percent advantage for Cruz over Young, well within the 0.25 margin that Florida law sets as the threshold for a manual recount.
If those numbers seem familiar, they are. They are the original, unofficial results from after the Nov. 6 election. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections has decided to report those results to the state — not the machine recount conducted this week.
The reason for that is the office doesn't want to disenfranchise 846 voters. This week's recount was plagued by two power outages, a broken machine and an emergency court hearing, so when the final results were collected Thursday afternoon they fell short of the unofficial results by 846 votes, said Hillsborough assistant county attorney Mary Helen Farris. The difference is just 0.16 percent less than the original returns, she said.
"Conducting a full recount in a constricted time period is extremely challenging. We are forced to recreate in four days what takes place over a course of weeks," Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a statement. "At this time, we haven't had time to analyze fully how those power outages may have impacted the count, nor to determine where human error may have been involved."
The machine recount in all four races undergoing a recount — U.S. Senate, governor and agricultural commissioner as well as the state senate seat — are virtually the same as the original Election Day returns, plus mail and provisional ballots.
So the unofficial results still stand Friday, when the Hillsborough County Canvassing Board will reconvene at 9 a.m. to count votes by hand, one race at a time, said Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Gerri Kramer.
Cruz and her campaign manager Tim Wagner remained as confident of winning as they were when she delivered her victory speech the day after the election.
The former state representative was in Tallahassee for the senate's "new member orientation" when Hillsborough's recount ended.
"She's getting accustomed to the process and rules of the senate, meeting members, finding her office and moving forward," Wagner said. There is also the chance that Cruz could run into Young during her tour because as Wagner put it: "It's definitely possible as she takes over Dana's office, but Dana was not re-elected."
"As of election night Janet Cruz was the senator elect," Wagner said. "She ended the night with more votes then and nothing has changed. She's the incoming senator."