How does an election recount work?
In the weeks following the midterm election, Florida completed a full machine recount, moved on to a hand recount of over/under ballots in two key races, the courts heard more than a dozen legal challenges about the process and a lot of people in both parties worried about the integrity of the process.
Since Nov. 6, the Miami Herald has received a lot of questions from readers — submitted on Twitter, asked in person and emailed — and to be honest, we didn’t always have the answers right away, but we promised that we would try to find out more. Elections are complicated, the case law sometimes confusing and changing. So after some research and old fashioned shoe-leather reporting, we have some answers to the most frequently asked questions.
If you have a question that we haven’t answered, please let us know. We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.
Why is this election taking so long? The election should have been done Nov. 6. Why are votes still being counted?
Actually, so far, the election is taking no more time than any other election, we just normally don’t notice the extended timeline. Florida’s election law doesn’t require final results until nearly two weeks after Election Day. For those two weeks, votes always continue to trickle in— for example, overseas absentee ballots were never supposed to be counted until Saturday, Nov. 17. Most of the time, one candidate already has a clear lead by the time those ballots are tabulated, so no one is paying attention to the final vote counts that change slightly within that two-week window, because ultimately they won’t change the result.
As long as one candidate has a lead of more than 0.5 percent from the second-place finisher, that timeline never gets public attention. Races that fall within that margin trigger a recount process, and this year races for governor, senator and agriculture commissioner were that close. Recount results are due Sunday, Nov. 18 in Tallahassee. Two days from then, Nov. 20, has always been the day that Florida planned on certifying the 2018 election results. It’s just very rare for the rest of us to be paying attention this far after Election Day.