Total recall: Florida faces prospect of vote recounts after US midterm elections
- If the race proceeds to a recount, no new call will be made until the recount is complete
- US President Donald Trump weighs in with a tweet
Florida, the state that dragged the 2000 US presidential election to a crawl and nearly broke the country’s storied democratic process is once again headed toward the uncertainty of a statewide recount.
Except this time, instead of one nationally important race, at least three crucial contests must be tallied again in the state’s 67 counties.
The looming recounts have already led to unfounded charges of elections theft, a reneged concession speech - and an audacious campaign request by the outgoing governor for a public corruption investigation into the counting of ballots that could determine whether he wins his own campaign for US Senate.
More than 48 hours after the country concluded the midterm elections, it’s still unknown who will be Florida’s next US senator, governor and agriculture commissioner, or how long it will be before those pronouncements can be made.
“I think it is fair to say right now that the results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown,” said Marc Elias, the lead lawyer on US Senator Bill Nelson’s recount team.
The state’s elections unexpectedly devolved into calamity Thursday thanks largely to thousands of votes belatedly trickling out of heavily Democratic South Florida.
Only Wednesday, it appeared that Republicans had pulled off a sweep in the country’s largest swing state, snaring the governor’s mansion, all three Cabinet positions and Nelson’s Senate seat.
Andrew Gillum, the Democrat running for governor, was so certain he’d lost that he conceded late Tuesday and called Ron DeSantis to congratulate him on his win.
But as vote counts updated Wednesday overnight - with elections employees running ballots through voting machines into the early morning - the margins shrank.
Governor Rick Scott, who on Tuesday night declared victory over Nelson, was suddenly a mere 15,000 votes ahead and heading for a hand recount. Gillum, suddenly down only 37,000 votes, unconceded, if there is such a thing.
Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate running for agricultural commissioner, actually leapfrogged over Republican Matt Caldwell to take the lead - leading Caldwell’s campaign to howl about “potential corruption”.
Scott then filed a lawsuit against Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes and held a press conference to announce that he’d ordered a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the beleaguered politician.
“We’ve all seen the incompetence and irregularities of vote tabulations in Palm Beach and Broward County for years. Well, here we go again,” Scott said from a podium at the governor’s mansion.
“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.”
Democrats, meanwhile, voiced uncertainty about the prospects of Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, overseeing a complicated and legally fraught process involving the fate of his boss. Come noon Saturday, Detzner will need to order a machine recount for any race within a half of one per cent, such as the governor’s race, and a hand recount for a contest within a quarter of one per cent, such as the Senate and agriculture commissioner races.
On Twitter, US President Donald Trump also weighed in on the race, as he did often during the campaign.
“Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!“
The official results of a manual recount would be due by November 18.