U.S.

Recounts Officially Ordered for Florida Senate, Governor Races

A statewide machine recount for three elections in Florida with razor-thin margins was officially ordered on Saturday, including recounts for the contentious races for U.S. Senate and governor. The third election headed for a recount is the race for agriculture commissioner.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the man in charge of overseeing the state’s elections, who is an appointee of GOP Governor Rick Scott, ordered the recounts Saturday afternoon shortly after the noon deadline for all 67 counties to provide their unofficial elections results to the state. The recount order was expected for the past few days but could not be officially ordered until the state received the unofficial results from all counties. 

State law requires an automatic machine recount if a vote margin is less than 0.50 percent in a statewide race. Once that recount is returned, a race with a margin less than 0.25 percent automatically triggers a second recount that is conducted by hand.

The final unofficial vote count on Saturday showed that the margin between Scott and Nelson was just 0.15 percent, or roughly 12,500 votes out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast. The margin in the race for governor between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, and former GOP Congressman Ron DeSantis was 0.41 percent, or roughly 33,600 votes of more than 8.2 million cast. 

In a statement following the announcement, a spokesman for Scott’s Senate campaign against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson said it was “time for Senator Nelson to accept reality and spare the state of the Florida the time, expense and discord of a recount.”

The Nelson team said the recount was about one thing: "Making sure every legal ballot is counted and protecting the right of every Floridian to participate in our democracy."

At a press conference in Tallahassee Saturday afternoon, Gillum officially rescinded his prior concession that he made on election night. 

"I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote," Gillum said. "I am prepared to accept whatever the outcome is of this election, so long as every single vote in this process is counted."

After staying largely silent on the matter, DeSantis issued a statement in a YouTube video. The Republican candidate said the results turned into the state were "clear and unambiguous," adding that he was looking forward to becoming the state's next governor. He did not mention the fact that a recount of his race was taking place. 

"With the election behind us, it's now time to come together as a state as we prepare to serve all Floridians," DeSantis said. 

In the days following the election, the razor-thin margins in both the Senate and governor races continued to narrow as vote-by-mail, provisional, overseas military and early voting ballots were still being counted.

The campaigns of Gillum and Nelson hired prominent elections lawyers to help in the recount effort. While Scott and Republicans sued local elections officials in South Florida, the Nelson campaign and Democrats sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Scott, in winning his lawsuits against the supervisors of elections of Broward and Palm Beach counties, forced information to be handed over to the Scott campaign detailing how many ballots were still left to be counted. The judge found that by the elections officials not providing the information prior to the ruling, they violated the state constituition and Florida's public records laws. Protesters have since taken to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office, some who advocated for the vote tabulation to cease while others said every vote should continue to be counted. 

Nelson's lawsuit against the state was to force all mail-in and provisional ballots, regardless of any signature matching discrepancies, to be counted. A lawyer for the Florida Department of State said in court on Friday that if there was a later court order to include some of the rejected ballots, counties would need to resubmit their results. Ongoing recounts would then need to be stopped and restarted, according to reporters present for the call-in hearing. A hearing for the case was set for Wednesday, the day before the machine recounts are due back to the state. 

During Gillum's Saturday press conference, the Democrat agreed with the Nelson campaign's stance, saying it was not fair to exclude the vote-by-mail and absentee ballots because “the 'W' in their signature today didn’t look like the 'W' in their signature yesterday.”

Republicans across the state and country have weighed in on the undecided races, including the president. Without evidence, Trump and other GOP lawmakers have made claims of fraud being conducted at the local level because additional ballots were still being tallied, most of them in the favor of the Democratic candidates. 

Scott said at a press conference earlier in the week that he ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate potential "rampant fraud" by "unethical liberals" in Broward and Palm Beach counties. But an FDLE spokeswoman told Newsweek on Friday that, after consulting with the Florida Department of State, there were no "criminal allegations of fraud at this time" and no active investigation. The spokeswoman said that while Scott, as governor, had the power to "direct an investigation in writing," the agency had not received any letter ordering to conduct such an investigation. 

The results from the machine recount are due to be completed and reported to the state by November 15 at 3 p.m. Should a second, manual recount be issued, those results would be due by noon on November 18. The official election results would then be certified on November 20.

Recounts Officially Ordered for Florida Senate, Governor Races Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) (L) and Florida Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum campaign together during a Get Out the Vote rally at the Meyer Amphitheatre on November 3 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Update: This story has been updated with additional comments made by Andrew Gillum at a press conference in the state's capitol city, Tallahassee. This story was further updated after a statement was issued by Ron DeSantis. 

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