Update: The numbers of votes in this race continue to change as elections officials continue their tallies. Please look back at the main Florida Phoenix website for the latest stories – and vote totals – in this race.
The bruising race for Florida’s governor – a contest which has drawn national attention and national money – is now likely headed for a recount.
As county Supervisors of Election continued to tally votes after Tuesday night’s election, the spread between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis narrowed to fall within the .5 percent that the state requires to trigger an automatic recount. Thursday evening, DeSantis had a razor-thin lead of 49.61 percent over Gillum’s 49.17 percent – amounting to 36,251 votes.
In an unprecedented scenario for Florida, the governor’s race now joins two other statewide contests headed for recounts – the race for U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott, and the race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner between Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried.
The unofficial election results are due from each county on Saturday, and that’s when state elections officials will have enough information to decide if recounts are required.
Gillum conceded the race for governor on election night and DeSantis gave a victory speech to cheering supporters. But that’s not legally binding and the whole race is now called into question.
The political sniping began Thursday amid echoes of the 2000 Al Gore-George W. Bush election, which saw network television cameras trained on obscure county elections officials as they inspected each ballot. On Thursday, Republicans called Democrats sore losers. Democrats vowed to make sure every vote is counted – and hinted of irregularities in a state dominated by Republican office-holders.
State elections officials have not yet reported any irregularities.
Complicating matters is the fact that Scott – the governor presiding over the state recounts – is subject to one himself in the Senate race. That also reminds political observers of the 2000 election, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush presided over his own brother’s presidential recount.
Another echo of the 2000 election: Barry Richard – the Tallahassee lawyer who represented Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 recount – is representing Democrat Gillum this time around.
The coming recounts, at least for the Agriculture Commissioner and governor at this point, will be conducted by machines. The same ballots that voters filled out the first time will be re-run through the voting machines. If the result of that operation shows that there’s only a .25 percent margin between two candidates, then hand-counting is required.
A recount by hand is likely in the U.S. Senate race already because that race is so close – as of 3 p.m. Thursday, Scott had just 17, 344 more votes than Nelson.
Thursday, Gillum’s campaign released a statement saying that when Gillum conceded, the campaign “operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count,” but now “it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported” and the campaign is “committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter to complain about the slowness of ballot counting at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. He made the incendiary charge that the delay “has opened the door for lawyers to come here & try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate & Florida Cabinet.”
No word yet from the DeSantis camp.