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FL Senate Race Heads to Hand Recount   11/16 06:42

   Florida's acrimonious U.S. Senate contest is headed to a legally required 
hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed 
Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by fewer 
than 13,000 votes.

   TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's acrimonious U.S. Senate contest is 
headed to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by 
ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. 
Bill Nelson separated by fewer than 13,000 votes.

   The contest for governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew 
Gillum appeared all but over Thursday, with a machine recount showing DeSantis 
with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.

   Gillum, who conceded on Election Night only to retract his concession later, 
said in a statement that "it is not over until every legally casted vote is 
counted."

   The recount has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold 
in South Florida was unable to finish its machine recount by the Thursday 
deadline due to machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to 
extend the recount deadline.

   "We gave a heroic effort," said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan 
Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the 
deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.

   Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area 
decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up 
with 846 fewer votes than originally counted. And media in South Florida 
reported that Broward County finished its machine recount but missed the 
deadline by a few minutes.

   Counties were ordered this past weekend to conduct a machine recount of 
three statewide races because the margins were so tight. The next stage is a 
manual review of ballots that were not counted by machines to see if there is a 
way to figure out voter intent.

   Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.

   It's time for Nelson "to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring 
this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes 
--- which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state 
that we both love and have served," the governor's statement said.

   Six election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee, 
and at least one in state court.

   The situation drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who slammed 
the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said 
the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that 
decided the presidency in 2000.

   "We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and 
we chose not to fix this," Walker said at a hearing Thursday.

   Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers and Palm Beach County officials, 
saying they should have made sure they had the equipment to handle this kind of 
a recount. But he said he couldn't extend the recount deadline because he 
didn't know when Palm Beach County would finish its work.

   The overarching problem was created by the Florida Legislature, which Walker 
said passed a recount law that appears to run afoul of the 2000 Bush v. Gore 
decision, by locking in procedures that do not allow for potential problems.

   Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a 
valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven't been counted due to 
mismatched signatures. Republicans challenged this order and were turned down 
by an appeals court.

   State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside 
because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match 
the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes 
will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county 
by noon Sunday.

   Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list 
of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge refused the request as 
"inappropriate."

   Under state law, a hand review is required when the victory margin is 0.25 
percentage points or less. A state website's unofficial results show Scott 
ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points. The margin between DeSantis and 
Gillum was 0.41 percent.

   The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few 
days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson's campaign. But he 
said that he expects it to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on 
signatures.

   Democrats want state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every 
eligible vote is counted. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have 
argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.


(KA)

 
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