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The Latest On The Election Recounts Happening In Florida

Nov 16, 2018
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The vote counting continues in Florida tonight. In the race for U.S. Senate, Republican Governor Rick Scott leads incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by a slim margin. And now counties have been ordered to start a manual recount in that contest. In the governor's race, the Republican maintained a larger lead after a machine recount was done today. But as counties faced a deadline this afternoon to submit new vote totals, there were machine glitches and confusion.

Here to bring us up to speed is NPR's Miles Parks. He's in Tallahassee, Fla. Miles, I want to start with the two big races for Senate and governor. Where do things stand?

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: So let's start with the Senate race. The new raw totals that we saw today - they changed a little bit, but the margins stayed the same. Scott leads Nelson by about .15 of a percentage point, and that small percentage point margin means there's going to be a hand recount. Not all of the ballots that were cast on Election Day - not all 8 million will be a hand recount, just those where no candidate or multiple candidates were scanned by the machine, something the machine was not able to read.

As of now, the deadline for that count is on Sunday. There's also a hand recount that's been called for the state agriculture commissioner race. I was just in federal court where the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County said they have 20 groups of volunteers standing by, ready to begin this hand recount process.

CORNISH: What about the race for governor?

PARKS: So in the governor's race, no further recount has been ordered at this point. Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis has maintained his lead over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democrat. And he appears likely headed for victory. Nothing at this point, though, has been declared. One contrast there is in the Senate race, Bill Nelson's campaign immediately filed a new lawsuit today. Gillum, on the other hand, released a statement basically saying he wants all votes to be counted, but he hasn't taken another step forward in the legal realm yet.

CORNISH: So today was the deadline for recounts to be completed by machine. Not every county was able to make that deadline. What happened?

PARKS: Yeah, it was kind of messy right around that 3 p.m. deadline that counties were supposed to be reporting their second batch of results to the state. Hillsborough County on the west coast of the state decided to not actually submit their new totals because there were about 800 fewer votes than in the original total, and they didn't have complete confidence in the count. So the old totals are going to stand there, and they're just going to wait until Sunday to return new totals.

And then in Broward County around Fort Lauderdale, my colleague Don Gonyea reports there was a large, unexplained discrepancy in the number of votes between the old new totals. And as the county was actually getting ready to report their new numbers, the election official doing the reporting was unfamiliar with the website, so they missed the deadline. They're also going to be just reporting the new totals based on a hand recount on Sunday.

CORNISH: We've heard so much about Palm Beach County where they were not expecting to finish by today's deadline. But you mentioned you were in federal court, and there is a judge there who's digging into what's going on. What have you heard?

PARKS: So Palm Beach County we've been hearing a lot really since before Election Day. They have the oldest counting equipment of anywhere in the state. Equipment there even overheated at one point. This week, they lost some vote totals and had to take a couple steps backwards. Basically Federal Judge Mark Walker was really investigating what recount deadlines they were going to be able to hit.

The good news is they seem to be on track to hit the Senate, get done with the Senate recount. And they say they can also get done a local House race that was required for recount. But in terms of getting the other two statewide races done for governor and agriculture commissioner, Election Supervisor Susan Booker said it could take till Christmas realistically if they keep the same process that they've been doing. Judge Walker has been really skeptical about granting extensions at this point for the process, so we'll see what he orders maybe as soon as tomorrow. If he doesn't grant an extension, the original totals for those two races would stand.

CORNISH: NPR's Miles Parks in Tallahassee, Fla. - thank you for your reporting, Miles.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.