Saturday 15 December 2018

Florida election recount underway as tensions rise

Leon County Supervisor of Elections employee, Holly Thompson, shows an original ballot and one remarked by the canvassing board to allow the ballot to be machine counted
(Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Leon County Supervisor of Elections employee, Holly Thompson, shows an original ballot and one remarked by the canvassing board to allow the ballot to be machine counted (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Leon County Supervisor of Elections employee Johnny To pulls a box of ballots to be recounted (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Brendan Farrington and Kelli Kennedy

The first election workers have begun the enormous task of recounting ballots in Florida's bitterly close races for the US Senate and governor.

The move came after the secretary of state ordered a review of the two nationally watched contests.

Miami-Dade County election officials began feeding ballots into scanning machines on Saturday evening.

The tedious work in that one South Florida county alone could take days, considering some 800,000 ballots were cast.

The Florida secretary of state ordered the recounts on Saturday, an unprecedented step for the two flagship races in a state that took five weeks to decide the 2000 presidential election.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office said it was unaware of any other time either a race for governor or US Senate in Florida required a recount, let alone both in the same election.

Florida's 67 counties can decide when to begin their recounts, but must complete them by Thursday.

Elections officials in two large counties in the Tampa Bay area - Pinellas and Hillsborough - said they would begin recounts on Sunday morning.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections employee Johnny To pulls a box of ballots to be recounted (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Leon County Supervisor of Elections employee Johnny To pulls a box of ballots to be recounted (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Unofficial results show that Republican Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5 percentage points, which will require a machine recount of ballots.

In the Senate race, Republican Gov Rick Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is less than 0.25 percentage points, requiring a hand recount of ballots from tabulation machines that could not determine which candidate got the vote.

The recount opens against a backdrop of political tensions. President Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted without evidence that the elections were being stolen.

Following the announcement of a recount, Mr Gillum withdrew his concession in the governor's race.

"Let me say clearly, I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote," he said, adding that he would accept whatever outcome emerges.

In a video statement, Mr DeSantis said the election results were "clear and unambiguous" and that he was preparing to become the state's next governor.

He also thanked the state's supervisors of elections, canvassing boards, and the staffs for "working hard to ensure that all lawful votes are counted".

"It is important that everyone involved in the election process strictly adhere to the rule of law which is the foundation for our nation," he said.

In the Senate recount, Mr Scott implored the state's sheriffs to "watch for any violations and take appropriate action" during the recount.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said on Friday it has not launched any investigation into election fraud.

The scene recalled the 2000 presidential recount, when it took more than five weeks for Florida to declare George W Bush the victor over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes, and thus giving Mr Bush the presidency.

Press Association

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