TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Unofficial Florida election results show that the governor’s race seems to be settled after a machine recount, but the U.S. Senate race is headed to a hand recount.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered the manual recount in the contest between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott. State law requires a hand recount of races with margins of 0.25 percentage points or less.
Election offices across Florida will have to hand count at a bare minimum almost 54,000 ballots in the U.S. Senate race.
A survey of 64 of Florida's 67 counties by The Associated Press put the number of overvotes and undervotes Thursday evening at 53,769 ballots in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
The only counties that hadn’t reported those counts were three of the state’s largest: Broward, Lee and Palm Beach counties.
CNN reports Broward County officials submitted their recount total two minutes after the deadline and that total will not be considered.
Unofficial results posted on the Florida secretary of state’s website show that Republican Ron DeSantis is virtually assured of winning the nationally watched governor’s race over Democrat Andrew Gillum. Florida finished a machine recount Thursday that showed Gillum without enough votes to force a manual recount.
Counties have until Sunday to inspect the ballots that did not record a vote when put through the machines. Those ballots are re-examined to see whether the voter skipped the race or marked the ballot in a way that the machines cannot read but can be deciphered.
The election will be certified Tuesday.
Several lawsuits have been filed by Democrats and Republicans in the wake of the close election.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems and said the Florida law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.
“We have been the laughing-stock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said in court.
Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers but also Palm Beach County officials, saying they should have made sure they had enough equipment in place to handle this kind of a recount. Walker also said he’s not happy about the idea of extending recount deadlines without limit.
The overarching problem was created by the Florida Legislature, which Walker said passed a recount law that appears to run afoul of the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, by locking in procedures that don’t allow for potential problems.
A total of six election-related lawsuits are pending in Tallahassee. Earlier Thursday, Walker ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven’t been counted due to mismatched signatures.
State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signature on the envelope didn’t match the signature on file. If these voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.
Nelson, a three-time incumbent, has defended his legal strategy that resulted in Walker’s ruling, saying in a statement Wednesday that “it remains the most important goal of my campaign to make sure that every lawful vote be counted correctly in this Senate race, and that Floridians’ right to participate in this process is protected.”
Republicans, however, say in their own lawsuits and motions that Democrats are trying to change the rules after the voting didn’t go their way.
“We will continue to fight to defend Florida law and uphold the will of the voters,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott.
Nelson and Democrats had wanted Walker to order the counting of all mail-in ballots rejected for a mismatched signature, arguing that local election officials aren’t handwriting experts.
Walker said he could not go along with that suggestion.
“Let this court be clear: It is not ordering county canvassing boards to count every mismatched vote, sight unseen,” Walker wrote in his 34-page ruling. “Rather, the county supervisors of elections are directed to allow those voters who should have had an opportunity to cure their ballots in the first place to cure their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots now, before the second official results are fully counted. This should give sufficient time, within the state’s and counties current administrative constraints, for Florida’s voters to ensure their votes will be counted.”
Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, called Walker’s ruling “baseless” and said they were “confident” it would be overturned by the Atlanta-based appellate court.
The developments are fueling frustrations among Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats want state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every eligible vote is counted. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.