The recount of the nip-and-tuck legislative race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera ended Thursday with Asencio 53 votes ahead — but even before the last ballot was checked, Rivera officially contested the election, a move that will likely delay the naming of a victor for weeks or even months.
After 10 hours counting ballots, the Miami-Dade County elections department declared that Asencio finished with 31,412 votes and Rivera 31,359 — a margin 15 votes closer than when the recount began.
The race was so close it actually triggered two recounts — the first by machine, and the second a hand-examination of ballots the machines thought were marked with votes for too many candidates or too few.
And it may get even tighter. Rivera’s lawyers asked elections officials to impound about 300 disputed ballots — mostly absentee ballots on which the voter’s signature was either missing or ruled not to match signatures in elections department records.
“We’ve already got affidavits from 59 of those voters saying they legitimately voted by mail and cast their ballots for me,” said Rivera, noting that would be enough to tip the election the other way. Asencio could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The disputed ballots will be examined by a committee the state House of Representatives is required to appoint next week to consider Rivera’s protest. Rivera said he’ll ask the committee to hold hearings in Miami, where the voters who signed affidavits for him will be allowed to testify.
The committee will make recommendations to the full House, which could decide to seat either Asencio or Rivera — or neither, requiring a special election.
“The legislative session doesn’t start until March,” said Rivera. “So there’s plenty of time to do this right.”