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Florida's U.S. Senate Race Headed For Hand Recount

Nov 15, 2018
Originally published on November 16, 2018 11:15 am
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Florida, the deadline has passed for the state's 67 counties to submit the results of machine recounts in the tight races for governor and U.S. Senate. The Senate race, where Republican Governor Rick Scott leads incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by a slim margin, is headed for a hand recount. The governor's race is not. But the new vote counts today were causing some confusion, and legal challenges are ongoing.

Here to bring us up to speed is NPR's Asma Khalid. She is at the board of elections office in Palm Beach County. And, Asma, let's start with those two big races for Senate and governor. Where do things stand now?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, the recount results are officially in. And in the Senate race, there are slightly new raw numbers of votes, but the margin stayed the same. So you have Rick Scott, the Republican, up ahead of Democrat Bill Nelson by .15 percent. So that's going to head into a hand recount.

According to Florida law, they're not going to, you know, count all of the ballots. That's not what a manual recount is. Those ballots are - they're just going to look at the ones where either no candidate was marked or multiple candidates were marked. And as of now, the deadline to finish that phase of the manual recount is Sunday. So at this point, you know, (laughter) I would say here you've already got a sense that the manual recount is starting. And there were a bunch of volunteers just filling the parking lot as I walked out to start that job.

CORNISH: What about the race for governor?

KHALID: In the governor's race, no further recount has been ordered. Republican Ron DeSantis has maintained his lead over Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democrat. And he is above the threshold that would trigger an automatic hand recount. So DeSantis appears likely headed for a victory, but nothing has been officially declared.

And of course, you know, here in Florida, (laughter) legal challenges could always challenge that. But I think part of why, Audie, things appear a little bit more uncertain is because some of the counting - some of the numbers we saw in the raw totals from counties did raise some questions. These recounts didn't exactly match the original counts.

CORNISH: Right. Reports are that not everyone was able to successfully submit their recounts. What happened?

KHALID: That's right. Here in Palm Beach, they just flat-out did not finish. They've had a bunch of mechanical problems. Their machines broke down on Tuesday. And so they resubmitted their original unofficial results. Those were the ones they submitted last Saturday. And there's a court hearing going on right now this evening over what to do about that. And a federal judge could decide to extend the sort of machine recount, give them a little bit more time. But we're not sure what's going to happen there.

And in Hillsborough County - that's sort of the Tampa area - they also decided not to submit new totals because in their recount, they came up with some 800 fewer votes than the original total. And then, lastly, in Broward County, we just got a note from my colleague Don Gonyea, who's over there, saying they also seem to (laughter) not have submitted a new number, in part because there was a large discrepancy between the original count and the recount. And so they're trying to figure that out.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what have you heard from the candidates?

KHALID: Well, immediately we've heard Rick Scott say that it was time for Bill Nelson to just give up. There was a Rick Scott aide out here in Palm Beach County just a little bit ago saying that it - he really should concede. I mean, they've made an argument that at this point it is wasting taxpayer dollars to keep dragging this campaign out. On the Nelson side, though, they sued immediately for a hand recount in Palm Beach. And I need to get some additional clarity on that, but it seems like they want an individual hand recount because the machines malfunctioned.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Asma Khalid in Palm Beach County, Fla. Thank you.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.