What you can expect from the recount
Florida’s recount in three statewide races is already conjuring up images of the 2000 presidential election with legal skirmishes, chanting protesters and a possible ballot design issue that could potentially cost a candidate thousands of votes.
Florida’s counties will conduct machine recounts in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner.
Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties started the recount Saturday evening, and Broward is expected to begin Sunday morning.
Here’s what you need to know.
Where the candidates stand
The first unofficial election results have been submitted to the state by Florida’s 67 counties. These results do not include all ballots from overseas military personnel. The deadline for those ballots to be received is Friday.
■ In the race for U.S. Senate, Republican Gov. Rick Scott holds a 12,562-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Scott received 50.07 percent of the vote compared with Nelson’s 49.92 percent, a difference of 0.15 percentage points.
■ In the race for governor, Republican nominee Ron DeSantis has a 33,684-vote advantage over Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum. DeSantis received 49.59 percent of the vote compared with Gillum’s 49.18 percent, a difference of 0.41 percentage points. Gillum withdrew his concession Saturday and called for all votes to be counted.
■ In the race for agriculture commissioner, Democratic nominee Nikki Fried has a 5,326-vote lead over Republican Matt Caldwell. Fried received 50.03 percent of the vote compared with Caldwell’s 49.97 percent, a difference of 0.06 percentage points.
About 8.2 million total votes were cast in the election.
Likelihood of the results changing
With the margins in the Senate and governor’s race, it is not likely the results will change, said Edward B. Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.
“The only way you could even think about overcoming a 10,000-vote gap is if there was a systemic error in the process,” said Foley, an expert on recounts.
One place Nelson could find votes is in Broward County. About 25,000 people voted in the governor’s race but did not vote in the Senate race. It’s a discrepancy not found to that magnitude elsewhere in the state.
Nelson’s lead recount lawyer Marc Elias said he thinks a calibration problem with the machines might be to blame.
Another theory is that poor ballot design caused people in a particular Congressional district not to vote in the race. The Senate contest was tucked into the bottom left corner below a column of instructions, and it’s possible voters just overlooked it.
If that’s the case, Nelson won’t have a legal path to recoup votes that were never cast, said Richard Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California, Irvine.
“During the Florida 2000 election, Florida voters in Palm Beach County tried to argue that the confusing ballot design — the butterfly ballot — led them to vote for the wrong candidate for president,” he said. “The Florida Supreme Court denied a remedy in that case.”
Elias has repeatedly dismissed the notion that poor ballot design would result in that many missed votes, but Whitney Quesenbery, an expert on ballot design with the Center for Civic Design, said she thinks it is entirely plausible.
Democrats are also arguing valid mail-in ballots were thrown out because election workers didn’t think the signatures matched, and they say mailin ballots in possession of the Postal Service on Election Day should be counted.
State law requires domestic mail-in ballots to be received by election supervisors by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.