Bill Nelson; Rick Scott (AP/Lynne Sladky/John Raoux)

Florida recount: Democrat Bill Nelson won't concede to Republican Rick Scott

An automatic recount may be triggered in Florida's Senate race


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Matthew Rozsa
November 7, 2018 5:01PM (UTC)

Ever since the contested 2000 presidential election, Florida has been closely associated in the public mind with recounts — and another one may be in store.

"We are proceeding to a recount," Sen. Bill Nelson announced late Wednesday morning.  The incumbent Democrat is asking for a recount in his attempt to hold onto his seat in the US Senate. Only 34,435 votes separate Nelson from his Republican challenger, Governor Rick Scott, who declared victory in an emotional address Tuesday night.

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Because Florida state law says that a machine recount can be ordered if the difference between the two candidates is less than 0.5 percent, it is possible that a recount could occur, according to the Miami Herald. That said, the only person authorized to order a recount (according to the Herald but not necessarily other publications) is Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who may be disinclined to do so given that he was appointed by the Florida governor, Rick Scott.

The process becomes even more complicated should such a recount narrow the margin between Scott and Nelson. If less than 0.25 percent separates the two candidates after the machine recount, a manual recount would have to occur, one that would take into account overseas and military ballots, provisional ballots and potentially defective ballots.

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For what it's worth, the Orlando Sentinel differed from the Miami Herald when it comes to whether a recount is triggered simply by the vote margin between two candidates being less than 0.5 percent.

State law triggers a recount if the difference in a race is less than 0.5 percent. So if the returns stand, the state will count the ballots again. There was no comment from state officials early Wednesday.

The race between Nelson and Scott was the most expensive one in the 2018 midterm elections, according to CNBC (which also described the recount as mandatory). Scott invested $50 million of his own money into his campaign, although Nelson made sure that he was also well-funded for the barrage of ads that he put on the airwaves to match those being produced by his Republican opponent. On Tuesday Scott told his supporters that he planned on being an agent of conservative change in Washington.

"The federal government is frustrating. It’s outdated. It’s wasteful. It’s inefficient," Scott said, according to Orlando NBC affiliate WESH (which also said the recount would be mandatory). "All of us in state government have dealt with the federal government over the last eight years, and we can tell you story after story after story. Now, I’m just one individual, but there are a lot of other individuals in D.C. that want to do the same thing. And I’m going to work with them and we will change, like we did in Florida, the direction of Washington, D.C."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2018 Midterm Elections Bill Nelson Florida Senate Election Rick Scott

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