Florida races headed for recount: What are the rules? When will it be over?

Provisional and overseas ballots still being counted. When does it end?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida election officials are facing several recounts in statewide races where the difference between the winner and loser of Tuesday's election is less than one-half of 1 percent.

While some ballots are still being counted -- mostly provisional ballots and those mailed by overseas voters, which are given an extra 10 days to arrive, it appears likely the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and the contest between the commissioner of agriculture candidates Matt Caldwell and Nikki Fried both will fall under the recount threshold.

cast, or a difference of 0.47 percentage, to fall within recount range.


Latest vote totals in 3 statewide races likely to face recount

There's also a state Senate seat and two state House races where the margin of victory is within the half-percent margin. If these margins hold up through Saturday, when preliminary results are due to the Florida Secretary of State's Office, the recounts will be ordered.

In a conference call with county supervisors of elections earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner told them to prepare for multiple recounts.

"The recounts will be nationally watched. (We're) under a microscope," Detzner told the county officials, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

How does this happen and how long does it take?

State statutes are very specific about what triggers an election recount, and where there are exceptions and when and how it has to be done. Florida law, recounts in a state or federal races must be ordered by Florida's secretary of state and the rules are clear about when they must be ordered. The only exception is if the candidate in second place but within the one-half percent margin requests in writing that there be no recount.

The initial recount, done by machines at each county election office, must be ordered by Saturday and the results reported back to the state. If the difference at that point is within one-quarter of 1 percent, a hand recount must be conducted and results.

Timeline from Election Day to certifying results of general election

  • Thursday, Nov. 8  -- Deadline for persons voting a provisional ballot to provide evidence of eligibility to supervisors of elections. County canvassing boards will review these ballots over the next several days to determine if the voter is eligibl and, in cases where the markings on the ballot are unclear, the intention of the voter.
  • Saturday, Nov. 10 - Unofficial returns due to the Florida Division of Elections by noon. The secretary of state will determine if any race meets the statutory threshold requiring a machine recount (a difference of one-half of 1 percent or less of the votes).
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 - If a machine recount is ordered, the second, unofficial returns are due from the county canvassing boards no later than 3 p.m. on Nov. 15. The secretary of state and Division of Elections will subsequently determine  If the returns show a difference of one-quarter of 1 percent or less, a manual, by-hand recount would be required.
  • Friday, Nov. 16 - Noon deadline for mail ballots from overseas uniformed service members and civilians.
  • Sunday, Nov. 18 - Official results from county canvassing boards due to state no later than noon Nov. 18.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 20 - State's Elections Canvassing Commission, consisting of Gov. Rick Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet, meets at 9 a.m. Nov. 20 to certify the results.

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