Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced on Saturday that three statewide races in Florida would head to a recount.
With the margin of unofficial results in the Senate, gubernatorial and agriculture commissioner races below less than half of one percent (0.5%), a machine recount will commence.
Barring lawsuits, delays, and local issues that could lengthen the process, here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect over the next week and a half.
Counties can now begin to re-feed ballots into county or central count tabulators for the mandated machine recount. This process must be completed in all 67 counties by 3 p.m. on November 15, when the re-tabulated results are due back to the secretary of state. The results are known as the “Second Unofficial Returns.”
If after the machine recount the results from any of these races has a margin of 0.25% or less, a hand recount will be ordered for undervotes and overvotes only – not the entire 8.1 million plus votes that have been cast.
The Florida Secretary of State’s office defines undervotes as “no choice or fewer than the number of allowable choices in the recounted race(s) on their ballot.” Essentially, a voter didn’t pick someone for every race. The secretary defines overvotes as a voter who “designated more choices than allowable in recounted race(s) on their ballot” — meaning a voter chose more than one candidate in a race.
Undervotes and overvotes are not included in the machine recount and are only checked if the race moves on to the manual recount.
There are still more ballots on the way possibly. Overseas military and civilian ballots are due by November 16. All overseas ballots postmarked and signed by Election Day are considered valid.
Once all returns are in, the county canvassing boards must certify the results and submit them to the secretary of state by noon on November 18.
Following the submission from the counties, the Election Canvassing Commission will meet to certify the results on Tuesday, at 9 a.m. on November 20. The commission includes the governor and two of his cabinet members. They will certify the results.
This is still Florida though, so don’t forget another critical deadline on November 30 — all lawsuits by candidates or civilians are due in circuit court.
Avoiding a recount
Don’t hold your breath. Both sides seem to be in for the long haul.
There are two ways to avoid a recount. First, if a candidate submits a request in writing to not conduct it at any point during the process, the state will no longer be required to finish the re-tabulation.
There is one other out — if the number of ballots to be counted (undervotes plus overvotes) is less than the margin between the two candidates, a manual recount is no longer required since it would be mathematically impossible to change the outcome of the election.
Assuming the candidates don’t back down and the margins stays close, any of these races could be challenged well into December.