MIAMI: Florida authorities on Thursday ordered a hand recount of the state’s chaotic and closely-watched US Senate race after counties filed retabulated vote totals that show the Donald Trump-endorsed Republican candidate narrowly leading the Democratic incumbent.
Results from the Nov 6 election were too close to call, and a machine recount was conducted in the race between Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger Rick Scott, who is Florida’s outgoing governor.
Results from that recount, which was beset by technical problems in at least one large county, were due at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) Thursday. They showed Nelson trailing Scott by about 12,600 votes out of more than 8.2 million ballots cast, or 0.15 percentage points.
With the difference falling within the 0.25 parameter that triggers a manual recount, Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered that one be carried out, which will focus on problematic ballots such as those where a voter designated more choices than allowable in the race.
The hand recount must be completed by Sunday.
No such recount was ordered in the governor’s race, in which Republican congressman Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum by about 0.41 percentage points.
As the unofficial vote totals rolled in on Thursday, Scott called on Nelson to concede.
“Last week, Florida voters elected me as their next US Senator and now the ballots have been counted twice,“ Scott said in a statement.
“We need to put this election behind us, and it is time for Bill Nelson to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end”.
Florida, the nation’s third most populous state, is a political battleground where tight elections have become the norm.
State election officials are scheduled to certify the final results on Tuesday, which may finally bring Florida’s vote drama to an end.
The situation has been unnervingly reminiscent of 2000, when Florida mounted a recount to determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won the state in the presidential election.
Following that chaos, Florida authorities instituted reforms that outlined specific steps for recounts in the event of close races.
Trump has repeatedly charged that Florida’s elections were marred by vote fraud.
On Wednesday he warned, without evidence, that Democrats could be casting “illegal” votes and said Florida’s election chaos was a “disgrace”.
The parties have squared off in a series of lawsuits surrounding the deadlines and thousands of ballots that were initially rejected because of mismatched signatures of citizens voting by mail.
Whatever the results, Trump’s Republicans will retain their majority in the US Senate when the new Congress is seated in Jan. — AFP