Florida will start counting ballots again in its Senate and gubernatorial races as vote differentials in both contests held below the 0.5 percent threshold required to trigger mandatory machine recounts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced.
The move almost immediately drew a rebuke from President Donald Trump, who’s in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. “Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida!” Trump tweeted.
In the Senate race, the unofficial count had Republican Rick Scott leading incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by about 12,600 votes among roughly 8.2 million votes cast. The gubernatorial races between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum were separated by about 33,700 votes, with the Republican also leading there.
The recounts will decide the fate of a crucial Senate seat and a governorship in the country’s largest swing state, which will also prove important in the 2020 presidential content.
Scott initially declared victory on election night, but slow vote-counting in Democrat-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties narrowed the race to within the margin that allows for a recount. DeSantis also declared victory — and his opponent conceded — when the outcome appeared to be a foregone conclusion on election night.
If a machine recount puts the results within a quarter of a percentage point, then the county canvassing boards would do a manual recount. Ballots from overseas civilians and members of the military will be counted if they’re postmarked by Nov. 6 and arrive by Nov. 16. The official results of a manual recount would be due by Nov. 18.
Florida elections are notorious for the minuscule margins of victory and for allegations of improprieties at polling stations and in vote-counting. The state decided the 2000 presidential election when a Supreme Court decision halted a Florida recount and made Republican George W. Bush the winner over Democrat Al Gore.
The race for Florida’s agriculture commissioner will go to a recount as well, with Democrat Nikki Fried now edging Republican Matt Caldwell by about 5,300 votes.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio questioned the validity of the last votes being counted, in a tweet that cited news articles from previous elections as evidence of past incompetence and “blatant violations of state & federal laws.”
“Now democrat lawyers are descending on #Florida. They have been very clear they aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted,” Rubio said. “They are here to change the results of election; & #Broward is where they plan to do it.”