South Florida election offices begin hand recount

Manual recount required for Senate, agriculture commissioner

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – One recount down, another recount to go.

Election offices throughout Florida began hand counting almost 54,000 ballots Friday morning to determine who will be the state's next U.S. senator and agriculture commissioner.

Florida Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a news release Thursday evening that unofficial returns from a machine recount had triggered a second recount in the Senate and agriculture races.

Broward County completed its hand recount for the Senate race Friday morning. There were 442 overvotes and 30,449 undervotes. In an overvote, a voter picks more than one choice for the same race. With an undervote, the voter doesn't pick a choice in a race.

"Because a lot of people don't always vote races," Joe D'Alessandro, director for election planning and development, told reporters. "If they don't know who the candidate is, they don't vote the race. They may not be interested in it and, a lot of times -- especially with the way we have five- and six-page ballots -- a lot of people just said, 'You know what, I've filled out enough of this. I'm done.'"

Things moved quickly inside and before noon, the manual recount was done thanks in most part to the number of volunteers who showed up to help.

"We had 100 counting teams, so I think that had a lot to do with it," Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes said. 

Dozens of volunteers sitting at folding tables cheered loudly when they were told they had finished the recount and could go home for the day. 

Broward County

CandidateNov. 6 TotalRecountDifference
Rick Scott211,119210,513-606
Bill Nelson471,334469,949-1,385
Ron DeSantis221,873221,252-621
Andrew Gillum481,677480,304-1,373
Matt Caldwell213,938213,322-616
Nikki Fried478,829477,448-1,381


Miami-Dade County

CandidateNov. 6 TotalRecountDifference
Rick Scott316,014315,817-197
Bill Nelson485,195484,938-257
Ron DeSantis311,762311,556-206
Andrew Gillum479,041478,813-228
Matt Caldwell305,197305,034-163
Nikki Fried475,785475,594-191


Unofficial recount results on the secretary of state's website show Republican Gov. Rick Scott with a .15 percentage point lead over Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. State law requires a hand recount of races with margins of 0.25 percentage points or less.

Broward and Palm Beach counties -- two Democratic strongholds in South Florida -- failed to meet the state-imposed deadline to submit the results of the machine recounts. The result is that the state will use the original vote totals.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said her office fell behind when the ballot-counting machines overheated Tuesday night. She complained that the antiquated machines only allow for races to be counted one at a time, and the malfunction made it impossible to catch up in time.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Broward County, the results of the machine recount were sent to the state about two minutes late.

D'Alessandro, director for election planning and development, blamed the delay on his "unfamiliarity" with the state's website.

"I have taken responsibility for every act in this office, good, bad or indifferent," Snipes said Thursday. "I've always held myself accountable."

In Miami-Dade County, there were 727 overvotes and 9,312 undervotes for Senate. There were 229 overvotes and 30,857 undervotes for agriculture commissioner.

Members of the Miami-Dade County elections canvassing board were reviewing them for "voter intent."

"We always try to find a way to make the ballot or the vote count, as long as it's legally sufficient for us to do that," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday.

The contest for governor between Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum appeared all but over Thursday, with unofficial results of a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.

But Gillum, who conceded on Election Day only to retract his concession later, wasn't ready to call it quits.

"A vote denied is justice denied," the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said in a statement Thursday. "The state of Florida must count every legally cast vote. As today's unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process. Voters need to know that their decision to participate in this election, and every election, matters. It is not over until every legally casted vote is counted."

Results of the manual recounts are due by noon Sunday. The election will be certified Tuesday.

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