Florida’s secretary of state ordered recounts in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races on Saturday, an unprecedented review of two major races in the state that took five weeks to decide the 2000 presidential election.
Secretary Ken Detzner issued the order after unofficial results in both races fell within the margin that by law triggers a recount.
His office was unaware of any other time either a governor race or U.S. Senate race required a recount, let alone both in the same election.
The unofficial results show that Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis led Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by less than 0.5 percentage points, which will require a machine recount of ballots.
In the Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is 0.14 percentage points.
Detzner ordered machine recounts in both races. Once completed, if the difference in the races are at 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered, said Department of State spokesperson Sarah Revell.
Democrat withdraws concession
Gillum withdrew the concession he made on election night on Saturday after the recount was announced.
“I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote,” Gillum said.
But DeSantis, who since last Tuesday’s vote has proceeded as if he won the election, said in a video posted Saturday the Republican Party of Florida that the results “are clear and unambiguous, just as they were on Election Night.”
“With the election behind us, it’s now time to come together as a state as we prepare to serve all Floridians,” DeSantis said.
Deeply divided state
The recount sets up what could be several days of political tension in this deeply divided state.
Scott and his supporters, including U.S. President Donald Trump, have alleged that voter fraud is underway in Democratic-leaning Broward County, where the Republican lead has narrowed since Election Day. Trump tweeted Saturday that the elections were being stolen.
There’s no evidence of voter fraud and the state’s election division, which Scott runs, said Saturday that its observers in Broward had seen “no evidence of criminal activity.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday it has not launched any investigation into election fraud.
Florida’s 67 counties will decide when to begin the recounts, but they must finish the machine recounts by 3 p.m. ET Thursday. Hand recounts will be reflected in official election results due Nov. 18.
Florida’s latest drawn-out election drama was reminiscent of the 2000 presidential recount, when it took more than five weeks for Florida to declare George W. Bush the victor over former vice-president Al Gore by 537 votes. That slim margin ended up giving Bush the presidency.
Florida was mocked for the way it handled the infamous 2000 recount, especially since there was no uniform process then on how to proceed.
That has changed, with the state legislature passing a clear procedure on how a recount should be conducted.
Florida is also conducting a hand recount in a third statewide race. Democrat Nikki Fried had a razor-thin lead over Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner, one of Florida’s three Cabinet seats.