State election site shows recount looming in Florida governor race

State election site shows recount looming in Florida governor race
Split between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Thursday afternoon, as votes continued to be counted, the State Division of Elections showed the candidates in the Florida governor’s race were less than 1/2 of 1 percent apart.

Florida law requires a recount in races in which the winning margin is 0.5 percent or less, unless the trailing candidate says in writing that he or she doesn’t want a recount. Canvassing boards conduct the recount by running ballots through vote tabulation machines.

As of Thursday afternoon, Republican Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum by 38,515 votes out of just over 8.2 million cast, or a difference of 0.47 of a percentage point.

Gillum’s campaign now says it’s prepared for a possible recount in the Florida governor race that he conceded to DeSantis on Tuesday night.

In a statement Thursday, Gillum’s campaign says it underestimated the ballots that still needed to be counted when he conceded. The campaign says it’s monitoring the situation and preparing for a possible state-mandated recount.

If this race or any other state race, such as the race for U.S. Senate between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, requires a recount, there is no need to worry about it being a repeat of the 2000 presidential debacle — there won’t be any hanging chads and the process is likely to take days, not a month.

Under state law in Florida, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate’s margin is 0.5 percentage points or less. That will be determined this weekend by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner after the canvassing boards in each of Florida’s 67 counties certify their returns. The recount, if ordered, would likely begin Monday.

The process, if it goes forward, will be different than the one that gained international notoriety in 2000, when the Supreme Court ordered an end to vote counting in Florida after a month, allowing Republican George W. Bush to claim the presidency with 537 votes.

At the time, each county had its own voting system. Many used punch cards — voters poked out chads, leaving tiny holes in their ballots representing their candidates. Some voters, however, didn't fully punch out the presidential chad or gave it just a little push. Those hanging and dimpled chads had to be examined by the canvassing boards, a lengthy and tiresome process that became fodder for late-night comedians.

Now, all Florida counties use ballots where voters use a pen to fill in a bubble next to their candidate's name, much like a student does when taking a multiple-choice test. When voters finish marking their ballots, they run them through a scanning machine that records the count. The ballot is stored inside the machine.

If the recount happens, each county will again run each Senate ballot through a scanner under the watchful eye of representatives of both sides. Ballots that cannot be read because they aren't marked or mismarked will be set aside.

If the statewide margin then falls below 0.25 percentage points, Detzner will order a manual recount in each county. Rejected ballots will be examined by counting teams to determine if the voters' intentions were obvious. If either side objects to a counting team's decision or the team can't make a decision, the ballot will be forwarded to the county's canvassing board, with the three members voting on the final decision. The members are the county supervisor of elections, a judge and the chair of the county commissioners.

The process will likely be finished in days.

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