NORTH VS. SOUTH IN FLORIDA TURNOUT
2 p.m.: There was dramatically higher voter turnout for Florida’s general election. Chalk it up to the Trump factor, especially in high-stakes races for governor and the U.S. Senate.
The tally for voter turnout reached about 62% statewide as of Wednesday afternoon, far surpassing the 51% of registered voters who cast ballots in the 2014 general election.
Although the turnout overall was higher, South Florida counties (notably blue) lagged compared to northern counties (clearly red). Turnout in Miami-Dade hit 56.89% and Broward reported 57.28% Wednesday. However, rural counties like Jefferson, Franklin and Baker topped 70% for turnout.
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RECOUNT IN STORE IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE?
8 a.m.: It may not matter much in the end, but an automatic recount is possibly in store in the extremely squeaky-close U.S. Senate race in Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican challenger, leads incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by 0.38% and that tiny margin points toward an automatic vote recount. The trigger point is 0.5%.
The actual raw numbers Wednesday morning — with a trickle of absentee ballots possibly still to be tallied — put Scott ahead of Nelson by 30,162 votes with more than 8.1 million votes cast.
“We are proceeding to a recount,” Nelson said Tuesday morning in a brief statement.
Nelson’s Senate campaign issued an email blast seeking donations starting at $5 for his recount fund.
“We know Rick Scott and the GOP are about to pile everything they’ve got into this, and I need you right here with me to make sure every last vote is counted,” Nelson said in a final pitch.
The Florida Democratic Party also issued an email blast for Nelson’s recount effort, seeking $100,000 over the next 24 hours to get it off the ground.
Scott’s Senate campaign scoffed at Nelson as desperate.
“This race is over,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott’s campaign. “It’s a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career. He is desperately trying to hold on to something that no longer exists.”
Even with an automatic vote recount, it may not be smart to bet on a different outcome, especially with optical scan ballots.
In other words, this likely won’t be a reprisal of Florida’s presidential election recount in 2000 when the manual counting of paper ballots and hanging chads gave George W. Bush a 537 vote edge over Al Gore.
Under state law there is no provision for candidates to request a recount, but a losing candidate can submit a written request that a recount not be held. That’s not likely to happen.
The recount can only be triggered by the margin of votes, and in this Senate race it appears to have been met.
Florida counties have to report first unofficial returns to the state no later than noon on Saturday, according to the Division of Elections. If a machine recount is ordered, second unofficial returns will be due no later than 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15. If any of the races are within a 0.25% margin, a manual recount would then be ordered.
Just before midnight Tuesday, Scott held a nearly a 1-percent lead over Nelson but as more Florida precincts reported their results, the margin tightened.
“It’s just hard to believe that we’re here now,” Scott said on election night. “Now that this campaign is behind us that’s where we’re going to leave it.”
RECOUNT ALSO LIKELY IN AG COMMISSIONER RACE
8:30 a.m.: The super-tight race for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services could have a recount in its future.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, the Republican challenger, leads Fort Lauderdale attorney and lobbyist Nicole “Nikki” Fried by about 0.16 percentage points as of Wednesday morning. The threshold for a manual recount is 0.25 points.
The actual raw numbers Wednesday morning — with a trickle of absentee, military and overseas ballots possibly still to be tallied — put Caldwell ahead of Fried by just 12,521 votes, with just under 8 million votes cast.
“This is the closest race since we’ve seen here in Florida since Bush v. Gore in 2000—we’re heading into a recount,” Fried said in a statement. “We are going to ensure that every vote is counted, in a race this close, everyones’ voices must be heard so the will of the people is upheld.”
Brian Swensen, spokesperson for the Caldwell campaign said, “We will be going through the state’s mandated recount and do not expect the results to change.”
— SAMANTHA GROSS
DESPITE GOV LOSS, DEMS CROW ABOUT HOUSE GAINS
8:30 a.m.: Florida Democrats suffered a stinging loss — yet again — in the governor’s race with Ron DeSantis narrowly beating Andrew Gillum.
But at least the Dems had something to crow about after the midterm elections: a bunch of new seats in the state House.
“With nearly 10 new Democratic members in the Florida House of Representatives, these string of midterm victories, following this year’s special election wins, shows that voters are looking for leaders that reflect their values,” said incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee. “This cycle, Florida House Democrats competed in 90 percent of Florida’s state House districts and made gains against the odds.”
Florida House Victory spotlighted these Democratic gains in six open seats: District 47, Anna Eskamani; District 59, Adam Hattersley; District 63, Fentrice Driskell; District 69, Jennifer Webb, District 84, Delores Hogan Johnson; District 103, Cindy Polo.
FHV also highlighted Democratic wins over GOP incumbents in these two seats: District 30, Joy Goff-Marcil; District 44, Geraldine Thompson.
Two House seats are headed for a vote recount: District 26, Democratic State Rep. Patrick Henry and Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff; District 89, Democrat Jim Bonfiglio and Republican Mike Caruso.
CHANGING CONGRESSIONAL FACES IN MIAMI-DADE
8:30 a.m.: Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell became the first non-Cuban to defeat a Cuban-American member of Congress from Miami, when she beat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo Tuesday. Mucarsel-Powell is Ecuadorean-American.
That Cuban American political streak began with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s first reelection in 1990. She chose not to seek reelection this year.
Coupled with Democrat Donna Shalala’s victory over Cuban Maria Elvira Salazar for an open seat last night, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is the only Cuban from Miami in the House of Representatives.
— ALEX DAUGHERTY