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Hillsborough County won’t submit recount results after fewer votes tallied in new count

The recount turned up 846 fewer votes, and Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said he will not accept that votes go unreported.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections staff members feed ballots into machines at their Tampa office during the mandatory machine recount Sunday. Staff began early Sunday morning starting with the approximately 187,000 mail-in ballots and will have until Thursday at 3 p.m. to count over 566,000 Hillsborough County ballots. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Nov. 15, 2018
Updated Nov. 15, 2018

Hillsborough County will not submit the results of its recount to the state after it turned up 846 fewer votes.

Instead, the county will let the results from its unofficial count stand, the supervisor of elections said Thursday.

"The fact that the percentages between the candidates remains the same gives us full confidence in our voting process and systems. Even though we achieved 99.84 percent success in our recount effort, we are not willing to accept that votes go unreported," said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer. "For that reason, the Canvassing Board has decided that the first unofficial results will stand as our second unofficial."

Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, is one of the largest counties in Florida, where there are statewide machine recounts in the races for U.S. Senator, governor and agriculture commissioner.

However, the inability to complete the recount with 100-percent confidence could have the most impact on a local state Senate race. Democrat Rep. Janet Cruz led incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young by just 376 votes in the unofficial count.

Cruz led Young by 357 after the recount, though those results will not be sent to the state. That race is likely headed to a manual recount of under-and over-vote ballots.

Recount results were due to the state by 3 p.m. State law says any county that did not finish would revert back to the unofficial results submitted to the state on Saturday.

Palm Beach County did not meet that deadline, despite trying. Hillsborough would have, however, has apparently intentionally decided to miss it.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State's office confirmed Hillsborough's decision is legal.

Latimer noted his office experienced two power outages Wednesday and lost a voting machine, however, he couldn't immediately say whether either problem or human error contributed to the drop in votes counted.

"Conducting a full recount in a constricted time period is extremely challenging," Latimer said. "We are forced to recreate in four days what takes place over a course of weeks."

Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott sued the Hillsborough elections office to gain access to the recount room and won. Scott, a Republican, is in the middle of a recount with Sen. Bill Nelson.

In the results sent to the state Saturday, Nelson led Scott by 41,852. After the recount, the gap narrowed slightly to 41,706.

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