Republican Rick Scott declared victory late Tuesday in Florida’s hotly contested Senate race but it may not be so simple.
His lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson has shrunk to 0.42%, which would force a mandatory ballot recount, reviving memories of the hard-fought Florida recount that determined the 2000 presidential race.
“We are proceeding to a recount,” Nelson said Wednesday in a brief statement.
The Florida secretary of state’s office said it was not planning any announcements Wednesday, sending out a timeline for the reporting of results.
Florida’s 67 counties now will recheck their results and must report by Saturday at noon. More than 8.1 million votes were cast in the state’s 6,111 precincts.
If the disparity between Scott and Nelson remains 0.5% or less, the secretary of state will order a machine recount. If the disparity drops to 0.25% or less, then the recount would be a manual counting of all ballots.
In a machine recount, all the ballots are re-fed through tabulating machines. The results of a recount are due on Nov. 15.
According to election officials, four counties had not completed counting absentee ballots and almost all counties had not counted provisional ballots. Overseas absentee ballots can still be received for 10 days.
Shortly before midnight, when Scott held a 1% lead, he greeted supporters in Naples with an apparent victory speech.
“It’s just hard to believe that we’re here now,” Scott said. “Now that this campaign is behind us that’s where we’re going to leave it.”
But his lead steadily shrank and by Wednesday morning was 34,537 votes, or less than 0.5% of the ballots cast, the trigger for a state-mandated machine recount.
Nelson did not speak Tuesday night and a spokesman hinted at a concession around midnight, saying it was not the result they were hoping for. Shortly after that the comment was clarified as not a concession.
Recounts rarely turn out well for the candidate who is behind.
Etched in Florida history was the 2000 presidential race, which led to a recount of paper ballots in four counties. The Supreme Court ultimately stopped the recount, giving George W. Bush a 537-vote lead over Al Gore and with it, the state’s electoral votes and the presidency.
Cherwa is a special correspondent.