Elections

Here’s how a recount in Florida works, what happens when and how long it takes

How does an election recount work?

Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.
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Florida law requires an automatic recount in a race in which the difference in vote totals is half a percent or less. The law requires a manual recount if the difference in the vote totals is 1/4 of a percent or less.

The razor-thin margins in the races of U.S. Senate, agriculture commissioner and the governor’s race caused Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to order mandatory machine recounts in all three statewide races Saturday after all counties submitted their unofficial results by noon.

Here’s a timeline on what happens next:

Thursday, Nov. 15: The second round of unofficial returns is due from the counties at 3 p.m.

Those in charge of recounting votes, the county canvassing boards, are comprised of the county supervisor of elections, a circuit court judge and county commission chair. This group is tasked with testing voting machines for technical errors and reporting any problems to the Secretary of State’s Office within 11 days.

A machine recount means damaged or crumpled ballots are duplicated, and all ballots are re-scanned. Then, the total votes cast according to the machines are compared with the votes the county initially reported. If the numbers match up, the vote was reported accurately in the eyes of the county. And if the margin is larger than 0.25 percent, the results will be considered official.

If the threshold after this second round drops below 0.25 percent, however, the state can order a manual recount for federal and state races. For all other races, county canvassing boards are responsible for ordering a recount.

A manual recount means the canvassing boards count each overvote and undervote by hand. An overvote means the voter picked more choices than allowed on their ballot. An undervote means the voter made no choice or fewer than the number of allowable choices on the ballot.

This process can take days.

Like with the machine recount, the losing candidate can request the recount be canceled. Additionally, the recount can be canceled if the number of overvotes and undervotes is less than the number of votes needed to change the election outcome.

Friday, Nov. 16: Overseas and military ballots, which traditionally trend Republican, will be counted. Ballots must be postmarked or signed and dated no later than Nov. 6.

Sunday, Nov. 18: Official returns are due from counties no later than noon.

Tuesday, Nov. 20: Official results from counties are certified by the state.

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