What trig­gers a re­count and how it works.

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Brit­tany Wall­man, Dan Sweeney and Gray Rohrer South Florida Sun Sen­tinel bwall­man@sun-sen­tinel.com or 954-356-4541, Twit­ter @Brit­tanyWall­man

With sev­eral high-pro­file races ap­pear­ing to head for a re­count in Florida, here’s how the process works and what to ex­pect.

Sec­re­tary of State Ken Det­zner, a Scott ap­pointee over­see­ing elec­tions, will call for a re­count once the coun­ties reach a dead­line of Satur­day at noon to sub­mit un­of­fi­cial re­sults. If the mar­gins re­main un­der the 0.5 per­cent thresh­old, re­counts must be or­dered un­der state law.

Be­fore then, elec­tion can­vass­ing boards in each county will re­view pro­vi­sional bal­lots to de­ter­mine if they are valid. Pro­vi­sional bal­lots are given to vot­ers who don’t have proper ID or whose names don’t show up on the rolls at the precinct.

The can­vass­ing boards, which typ­i­cally con­sist of the su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions, a county judge and a county com­mis­sion mem­ber, re­view the bal­lots to see if the sig­na­ture matches the one on file when the voter first reg­is­tered, and to de­ter­mine if the voter didn’t al­ready vote.

How close does a race have to be for an au­to­matic re­count?

Ac­cord­ing to the Florida Di­vi­sion of Elec­tions, a ma­chine re­count is con­ducted if the win­ning mar­gin based on the un­of­fi­cial vote tally is within half a per­cent­age point — 0.5 per­cent — of the to­tal votes cast. In a ma­chine re­count, the bal­lots are sim­ply fed back into the ma­chines to see if they reach a dif­fer­ent re­sult, which tries to ac­count for im­prop­erly cal­i­brated ma­chines and hu­man er­rors in feed­ing bal­lots into the ma­chines.

What leads to a hand re­count?

A man­ual re­count, where bal­lots with “over­votes” or “un­der­votes” are ex­am­ined by hand, is called for if the race is even tighter. If, af­ter a ma­chine re­count, the win­ning mar­gin is equal to or less than one-fourth of one per­cent — 0.25 per­cent — of the to­tal votes, a hand re­count is done. These are the bal­lots where the voter’s in­tent is not clear.

Over­votes and un­der­votes are the two main cat­e­gories that a hand re­count could ex­am­ine.

Over­votes are those in which the ma­chines read more than one vote for a race on the same bal­lot. In the case of the Scott/Nel­son race, it would mean a bal­lot had votes for both Scott and Nel­son. A hand re­count can some­times show that one vote or the other was an un­in­ten­tional mark­ing or was crossed out.

Un­der­votes are those in which the ma­chine reads no vote at all in a race.

When does a re­count be­gin?

A re­count can be called only af­ter all of the un­of­fi­cial re­sults are in, and those re­sults show a dif­fer­ence of less than 0.5 per­cent.

The un­of­fi­cial re­sults have to be in by noon on the fourth day af­ter the elec­tion — this Satur­day.

Af­ter­ward, if a ma­chine re­count is called for, it has to be done by 3 p.m. nine days af­ter the elec­tion, which in this case is Nov. 15.

If those re­sults show a race within 0.25 per­cent, the Florida Sec­re­tary of State will call for a man­ual re­count.

Didn’t some of these can­di­dates al­ready con­cede?

Just an­nounc­ing that you’re con­ced­ing the race isn’t enough to stop the manda­tory re­count. Los­ing can­di­dates can stop it, but they’re re­quired to alert the state Di­vi­sion of Elec­tions in writ­ing that they don’t want re­count. No can­di­date has done so. The of­fi­cial, cer­ti­fied re­sults are what counts.

What about pro­vi­sional bal­lots?

Pro­vi­sional bal­lots are those where the voter’s el­i­gi­bil­ity is in ques­tion — be­cause the per­son lacked iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at the polls, for ex­am­ple. These vot­ers were given un­til 5 p.m. Thurs­day to clear up the is­sue so the bal­lot can be counted. In an ex­tremely close race, those bal­lots also could make a dif­fer­ence.

The can­vass­ing boards, which typ­i­cally con­sist of the su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions, a county judge and a county com­mis­sion mem­ber, re­view the bal­lots to see if the sig­na­ture matches the one on file when the voter first reg­is­tered, and to de­ter­mine if the voter didn’t al­ready vote.

This sounds like im­por­tant work. Can I watch?

Ma­chine and man­ual re­counts are open to the pub­lic.

How long might we wait for of­fi­cial re­sults?

For this gen­eral elec­tion, re­turns from the coun­ties are due at noon Nov. 18. The state will cer­tify of­fi­cial re­sults by Nov. 20.

These dates and dead­lines, though, are sub­ject to change if there are law­suits, and the courts is­sue in­junc­tions that de­lay the process.

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