In an election challenge that's conjuring up nightmarish images of hanging chads, butterfly ballots and George W Bush's 537-vote margin of victory in the 2000 presidential election, it's looks increasingly likely that Republicans' narrow victories on Tuesday in Florida's senatorial in gubernatorial races could be headed for a recount.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott defeated Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his US Senate Seat. And Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded defeat to Ron DeSantis in the state's gubernatorial race. But as votes continue to be tallied, it's looking increasingly likely that the Senate race could be headed for a hand recout - and the governor's race could be headed for a machine recount, in accordance with Florida law, as CNN reported.
Sen. Bill Nelson's re-election bid is likely headed to a hand recount given that the incumbent Democrat now trails Florida Gov. Rick Scott by 17,000 votes, within the .25% margin required for a hand recount. Nelson's campaign aides believe he will emerge victorious once all the ballots are counted.
And on the governor's side, Democrat Andrew Gillum - after conceding the race on Tuesday evening - has grown more supportive of a recount of late, in part because his deficit to Republican Ron DeSantis is down to 38,000 votes, within the .5% needed for a machine recount. Campaign aides, though, remain clear eyed about the the long odds that Gillum can make up that deficit.
Recounts, which have not officially been authorized in either race, put the outcome of two of the most closely watched races of 2018 on hold, with Democrats hoping for a miracle that could get both Gillum, a candidate who garnered considerable attention in his campaign against DeSantis, and Nelson, an incumbent who Democrats had thought would win his seat going into Tuesday night, over the finish line with a win.
"On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count. Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported," Gillum's communications director Johanna Cervone said in a statement. "Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted."
At no point in the statement, though, did Gillum's campaign withdraw the concession and sources close to the mayor highlight that his outlook hasn't changed since his Tuesday night speech. It it is important to Gillum, these sources said, that his supporters know they are fighting for every vote.
"We want every vote counted, we believe that there are still votes out there for Mayor Gillum and we want to make sure his supporters know we are fighting for every vote," one source said.
Gillum and DeSantis have not talked since election night, the source added. Gillum told supporters on Tuesday that he talked to DeSantis and "congratulated him on what we expect will be him as the next governor of the great state of Florida."
In some parts of the state, controversies surrounding the still-unfinished vote tallies are beginning to draw national attention, specifically in Broward County and Palm Beach County, where elections officials were still counting votes on Thursday, according to the Sun Sentinel. Because of questions surrounding why more than 24,000 people voted for governor, but not for Senator, in Broward, recounts could be coming in both of those races, as well as the race for state Agriculture Commissioner.
But that discrepancy isn't the only evidence that something might be amiss in Broward County. On Twitter, Marc Caputo pointed out that a teacher at a local elementary school reportedly found a box marked provisional ballots that was left behind from election day. She hasn't opened it for fear of accidentally tampering with the vote totals.
In Broward County, Miramar Elementary School teacher Lakeisha Sorey came across a box labeled “Provisional ballots” left behind at the school from Election Day & she’s concerned it might have votes. She didn’t look in the box because she didn’t want to tamper with it pic.twitter.com/x8WOa8tfKz— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 8, 2018
Sorey said she spotted the box before leaving school about 4 p.m. She spoke to her principal who advised her not to touch it. She also spoke later to a state rep who referred her to me— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 8, 2018
And while some might be tempted to point the finger at Repubicans, as Caputo points out, Broward County is heavily Democratic.
I know it's tempting for Democrats to blame Republican voter suppression here, but Broward County is HEAVILY Democratic and the elections supervisor is a Democrat https://t.co/9Po1qK9i5k— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 8, 2018
Some critics said this is a sign of incompetence and corruption.
This is INCOMPETENCE AND CORRUPTION: First for “forgetting” it there. Second, who knows how many fake ballots were stuffed in there after the vote? A judge should rule against using any of it. https://t.co/URAOXG4u4X— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) November 8, 2018
This isn't the first time that questions have been raised about the legitimacy of provisional and mail-in ballot counts in Broward County.
What’s happening in #BrowardCounty happened just last August,albeit on a smaller scale.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 8, 2018
9000 votes arrived in mail just before 7pm Election Day. Few days later incumbent school board member avoids runoff against @rpetty & a judge won by just 400 votes https://t.co/zUn7JszUMg
Whatever the story behind these ballots might be, suspicion is turning toward Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 after her predecessor was removed following the Bush v. Gore recount fiasco.
There's an increased level of chatter in Republican circles for removing Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes (her predecessor was removed in 2003 by Gov. Jeb Bush who appointed Snipes). But Scott likely won't do that now that there's a recount. But afterward?— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 9, 2018
Some question why Snipes has been allowed to remain in her position after showing a willingness to destroy ballots. A state judge ruled as much back in May, which found that Snipes oversaw an effort to destroy ballots to advantage Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic Primary, as the Sun Sentinel reported.
WHY was Snipes allowed to stay in that position after caught stuffing ballot boxes? I believe a judge agreed. https://t.co/TK2UTIawMv— Lisa Tarpin (@Lisa77720) November 8, 2018
Florida isn't the only race where defeated Democrats are gearing up for a recount challenge. In Georgia, Stacy Abrams, who would become the state's first female African-American Governor if she wins, has refused to concede as votes continue to be counted. And she has good reason. Because if Kemp, who currently has 50.3% of the vote, sees his lead erode below 50%, the contest will automatically go to a runoff to be held on Dec. 4 - even if he ends up with more votes.
What was that again about Republicans suppressing votes?