What you can ex­pect from the re­count

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Skyler Swisher

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.

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