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  1. Florida Politics

Recount could soon decide Florida Senate District 19 primary

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Thursday ordered a recount in the state Senate District 19 Democratic race, where Darryl Rouson currently leads Ed Narain by just 75 votes.

St. Petersburg's Rouson has held a slim lead over Tampa's Narain since Tuesday's primary. The newly drawn district encompasses parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The nearly weeklong process to determine which of the two state representatives will replace state Sen. Arthenia Joyner should wrap up today, after both a machine recount and a likely manual recount take place.

While the state Division of Elections has until Thursday to certify the election, Hillsborough and Pinellas elections officials are expected to issue their official results today.

That means Rouson, Narain and the 37,000 people who voted in the race should know for certain who will likely represent the district in the Florida Senate for the next four years.

That's because the official winner of the Democratic primary faces an unknown challenger in Republican John Houman in November's general election. Houman has yet to receive any political contributions since filing to run in May.

Rouson, who watched the Pinellas canvassing board review ballots Thursday, said he is feeling "cautiously optimistic" about the recount.

"It's not really how I'm feeling," Rouson said. "It's that I want the voters to know they have spoken. People are on edge."

Narain said he had no comment other than he's "just letting the process take place."

Though the state won't certify results until Thursday, Rouson said he feels comfortable calling the race once the counties file their official results.

The machine recounts will take place at the supervisors of elections offices in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties at 10 a.m. today. Both are expected to take a couple of hours.

If the margin is less than a quarter of 1 percent, a manual recount will follow. That isn't expected to take as long, as the canvassing board only looks at the overvotes and undervotes (every paper ballot in which an optical machine recorded a voter as having voted for more than one candidate or no candidates).

That manual count is a likely option, as the margin currently sits at a fifth of 1 percent after canvassing boards in both counties reviewed 28 provisional ballots Thursday. After evaluating those ballots, Rouson's lead only dropped by one vote.

Once both recounts are complete, the counties will certify results and file official results with the state, said Jason Latimer, spokesman for the Pinellas supervisor of elections office.

Latimer said he does not know of a situation where the supervisor of elections office has seen a large number of votes change during a recount.

"We're usually talking about a handful of votes that might change after inspecting the ballots," he said. "It's a great step to the election process to verify that you're correctly tabulating the votes."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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