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US Senate race between Nelson, Scott headed toward recount

Scott's lead now just 0.4 percent over incumbent Nelson

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida's U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is headed toward a recount, Nelson's office announced Wednesday.

Scott declared victory late Tuesday in the hard-fought race for the U.S. Senate seat, even though one of the most closely watched and expensive races in the country was too close to call.

According to Nelson's Twitter account late Wednesday, unofficial results show the senator narrowly trailing Scott by about 26,000 votes out of a total of 8.1 million ballots cast.

Florida law requires a recount when candidates are within one-half point. The current margin is .32 percent.

"We are proceeding to a recount," Nelson said Wednesday morning, in a brief statement.

Nelson campaign said late Wednesday said they believe the three-term Democratic senator will win the race after the results of the recount.

"We’re doing this not just because it’s automatic, but we’re doing it to win,” said Marc Elias, a lawyer for Nelson. "A significant number of ballots have not yet been counted and, because of the size of Florida, we believe the results of the election are unknown and require a recount." 

The Scott campaign has dismissed the need for the recount.

"This race is over," said Chris Hartline, spokesman for Scott for Florida. "It's a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career. He is desperately trying to hold on to something that no longer exists." 

Scott himself has not yet responded to news of the recount, but told supporters Tuesday night that the campaign is now behind them.

"Now that this campaign is behind us, that's where we're going to leave it," Scott told supporters gathered in Naples, drawing laughter from the crowd. "At least the campaigns I've been involved in, (they) are divisive and they're tough and they're really actually way too nasty. But. you know what, we've done this for over 200 years, and after these campaigns, we come together and that's what we're going to do. Americans come together."

The next step would be for the state's 67 county supervisors of election to recheck the total tally and the Nelson campaign would contact voters whose ballots were not counted for reasons such as a lack of ID or a matching address. 

Nelson's camp said the deadline is noon Saturday, but could be longer, depending on the circumstances, to determine whether the recount proceeds under law.

Florida's secretary of state has not yet officially ordered the recount. 

The Nelson campaign said it intends to have observers in all 67 counties, keeping an eye out for any "irregularities, mistakes or unusual partisan activities."

"For instance, prior to Election Day, Madison County Republican Supervisor of Election Thomas Hardee -- who initially was appointed to office by Scott -- was quoted by the Tampa Bay Times as saying he would 'eat his [Nelson's] lunch,'" the news release stated. 

"We expect the supervisors, regardless of their party affiliation, will discharge their constitutional duties," said Marc Elias, an election lawyer representing the Nelson campaign.


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About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.