Florida was home to one of the most hotly-contested Senate and gubernatorial midterm elections this year. With around 99 percent of all ballots officially counted, most results pages currently show Ron DeSantis sitting in the lead with 49.6 percent of the vote. But Andrew Gillum isn’t trailing fair behind – he’s sitting nearby with 49.2 percent of the vote, and the vote has yet to officially close.
Could the drama continue with a forced recount because of the week’s events? Here’s what we know about the issue and what you need to know to understand.
• Democratic leaders are pushing for a recount for a few different reasons. Primarily, they believe the separation between Left and Right candidates is close enough to officially trigger a court-mandated recount. A full 1 percent of all Floridan ballots remain uncounted at the time this article was written.
• Florida also instituted a a state constitutional amendment to restore the right ex-felons to vote. Previously, felons who had served time were prevented from casting their vote for life. This was true regardless of what they had served time for and regardless of whether they graduated back into the population without recidivism or not.
• Civil liberties organizations have been fighting the law for several years, but it came to a fevered pitch in recent months. Statistics show that a large portion of the affected individuals were people of color, leaving many social justice entities raising cries of systemic racism.
• The right to vote was officially restored to nearly 1.5 million ex-felons this week, but not until partway through election day. Many were left unable to cast their ballot because they weren’t registered or showed up on restricted lists at polling stations.
• There is also evidence that some of the ex-felons who were allowed to cast a ballot may not have had their ballots counted. It isn’t yet clear if this is because of restrictions, mismarked ballots, or some other issue.
• If this is true, the currently small margin between DeSantis and Gillum could be even smaller than the most recent results reflect. In fact, it might even be enough of a difference to flip the state entirely, making Gillum the winner.
• At first, the divide between DeSantis and Gillum wasn’t enough to trigger a legally-required recount. Florida laws indicate the need for mandatory recounts whenever the separation between two candidates is less than 0.5 percent, and early counts showed DeSantis in the lead by just a hair over that value.
• Numbers continue to roll in even now, but the divide has been steadily shrinking, shifting the race in Gillum’s direction more and more closely. By 11 a.m. EST on Friday, November 9th, the two candidates were separated by a microscopic 0.4 percent.
• DeSantis had already declared himself the winner on election day, but Gillum released a statement declaring his intention to fight to the end. A statement from his office on Tuesday reads, “…the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count. Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. We are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted.”
• Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson has also been affected by issues with uncounted ballots in the same state within the Senate race. Results currently show him losing to Rick Scott (51 percent) by just 15,000 votes, or 49.9 percent of the vote. Nelson’s 1.1 percent loss isn’t enough to trigger a recount, but it isn’t yet known exactly how many ballots have yet to be counted.
• Nelson hired lawyer Marc Elias to investigate the alleged issue of uncounted ballots. He said that, “The results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown.” Elias also affirmed his belief that Nelson, who needs just over 15,000 votes to win, would be declared the winner within his own race.
• Florida officials currently have until Saturday to complete vote counts and release official results. We won’t know until then if the close races in this swing state will trigger a recount. Secretary of state, Ken Detzner, is expected to review the results at that time and release an official statement.
• As for whether ex-cons will really swing the vote, the likelihood is incredibly small. Because the law changed at the last minute, and part way through election day, it is unlikely that anyone could make a case for voter suppression compelling enough to trigger a complete re-election. The newly-appointed voters will, however, likely have a significant impact on future elections, including Trump’s campaign for 2020.