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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020
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Florida election recount underway as millions of votes to be checked

The Florida secretary of state ordered the recounts yesterday.

Image: Josh Repogle

THE FIRST ELECTION workers have begun the enormous task of recounting ballots in Florida’s bitterly close races for the US Senate and governor, ramping up their efforts 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 Saturday evening. The tedious work in that one South Florida county alone could take days, considering some 800,000 ballots were cast. Multiply that by 67 counties in the nation’s third most populous state, and the scope of the task was beginning to sink in today.

The Florida secretary of state ordered the recounts yesterday, 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 this morning.

Unofficial results show that Republican former US Republican Ron DeSantis led Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5%, which will require a machine recount of ballots. In the Senate race, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is less than 0.25%, requiring a hand recount of ballots from tabulation machines that couldn’t determine which candidate got the vote.

The recount opens against a backdrop of political tensions. President Donald Trump yesterday tweeted without evidence that the elections were being stolen. Angry protesters gathered at an elections office in Broward County, waving signs and shouting with bullhorns.

Following the announcement of a recount, 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 released yesterday, 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, Scott implored the state’s sheriffs to “watch for any violations and take appropriate action” during the recount.

Scott and his supporters, including Trump, have alleged that voter fraud is underway in Democratic-leaning Broward County, where the Republican lead has narrowed since Election Day.

There’s no evidence of voter fraud and the state’s election division, which Scott runs, said that its observers in Broward had seen “no evidence of criminal activity”.

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 Bush the presidency.

Florida was mocked for the way it handled the infamous 2000 recount, especially since there was no uniform process then on how to proceed. That has changed, with the legislature passing a clear procedure on how a recount should be conducted.

Florida is also conducting a recount in a third statewide race. Democrat Nikki Fried had a 0.07% lead lead over Republican  Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner, one of Florida’s three Cabinet seats.

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Associated Press

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