Thursday, November 08, 2018

RECOUNTS AHEAD: Senator Bill Nelson, Mayor Andrew Gillum Are Gaining Votes, Ag. Commr candidate Nikki Fried Ahead. (NY Times)

Let every vote count and let every vote be counted. Ignore the bumptious bullies like Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT, who angrily opposes the principle of counting all the votes, even as absentee and provisional votes are still being counted in tight 2018 Florida election races.

Florida Braces for Election Recounts, Now Including the Race for Governor

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican candidate for Senate, at his election night party on Tuesday. His race against Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, appears headed for a recount.CreditCreditJoe Skipper/Reuters
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Legal wrangling began in earnest in Florida on Thursday, as top political campaigns girded for the possibility of lengthy and expensive vote recounts in a Senate race that remains too close to call and, unexpectedly, also in the closely contested governor’s race.
Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, claimed victory in the Senate contest on Tuesday against Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent. But the vote gap between them has only narrowed since then, as the state’s largest counties have continued to tally ballots that were mailed in or cast on a provisional basis on Election Day.
The gap has also closed in the governor’s race, which is now in recount territory as well. Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, conceded to Ron DeSantis, a Republican, late Tuesday night, shortly before The Associated Press called the race for Mr. DeSantis. But Mr. DeSantis’s victory margin has since shrunk to 0.47 percentage points — three-hundredths of a point below the recount threshold. Mr. DeSantis leads by more than 38,000 votes.
Florida’s 67 counties have until noon on Saturday to submit their unofficial vote totals to the state’s division of elections. Four more contests — for state agriculture commissioner, one State Senate seat and two State House seats — are also likely to be headed for recounts. The lead in the agriculture commissioner race flipped on Thursday afternoon: Nikki Fried, a Democrat, moved ahead of Matt Caldwell, a Republican, by 575 votes.

“Let’s be clear: When Elias says ‘win,’ he means ‘steal,’” Mr. Scott’s campaign said. “It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after voters have clearly spoken.”
Of particular concern to Republicans is the slow pace of counting in Broward, the state’s second most populous county, where a court ruled in May that the office of the elections supervisor, Brenda Snipes, had illegally destroyed some ballots from a 2016 congressional race.
Supporters of Mr. Nelson on Election Day. Under Florida law, a vote margin of half a percentage point prompts a recount.CreditJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Dr. Snipes, an elected Democrat, told reporters on Thursday that she could not say how many votes were left to count from this week’s election, only that all mailed-in ballots in the county had already been taken out of their envelopes.
“I think we had over 58 percent of our voters voted, and each voter received a ballot package of either five or six pages,” she said when asked about why counting was taking so long. “It’s volume that causes this.”
Results from Broward so far indicate that nearly 25,000 people cast votes for governor but not for senator, even though the Senate race came first on the ballot.
Enthusiasm for Mr. Gillum’s candidacy may account for some of the difference, since- he excited many voters who cared chiefly about electing him. But some Democrats believe that the design of the ballot used in the county played a role: The Senate contest appeared in the bottom left-hand corner of the first page, beneath the instructions to voters, where it may have been easily overlooked. .

Mr. Elias said the difference between the votes for Senate and governor in the county was significant, but he refrained from criticizing the ballot layout, at least for now.
Once counties report their unofficial totals to the state on Saturday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, an appointee of Mr. Scott, will be able to order any of the legally mandated recounts.
A statewide machine recount would have to be completed by 3 p.m. on Nov. 15, Mr. Elias said. If that process yields a margin of less than 0.25 percentage points in any federal or state races, then Mr. Detzner would order manual recounts in those races of what are known as undervotes and overvotes; the recounts would have to be completed by Nov. 18.
In the Senate race, undervotes are ballots on which optical-scanning machines detected a vote for another race down the ballot, like governor or attorney general, but no selection for Senate. Overvotes are ballots on which scanners detected that the voter had marked more than one choice in the race.
Florida voters fill in paper ballots by hand using a pen, and no longer cast the punch-card ballots that produced the infamous “hanging chads” in the 2000 presidential election.
Candidates cannot request recounts, but those with fewer votes in a race can refuse them.
Before the governor’s race narrowed into recount territory, Mr. Gillum’s campaign said it was monitoring the tightening results. . State Democrats dispatched lawyers to county canvassing boards and sent volunteers to campaign offices to track the counting of provisional ballots.
“Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted,” Johanna Cervone, his communications director, said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr. DeSantis, for his part, has already announced his transition team.
Follow Patricia Mazzei on Twitter: @PatriciaMazzei.

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