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Florida Senate Race Recount Will Be Done Manually


Florida is done with the machine recount of more than 8 million ballots, but they are sure not done. Now state officials have ordered a hand recount because the Senate race is still too close to call. Governor Rick Scott, the GOP candidate, holds the narrowest of leads in the Senate race against incumbent Bill Nelson, the Democrat. And there is still no confirmed governor, either, because election results are not yet certified, though Republican Ron DeSantis has a wide enough margin to avoid a manual recount. He has declared victory. His rival, Andrew Gillum, says he will fight the results in court. So much to cover now with NPR's Miles Parks, who is in Tallahassee. Hi there, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Can we start with what exactly a hand recount is? Are we talking about manually counting every single vote here?

PARKS: Yeah. We should actually start by saying that that's not what's going to be happening.


PARKS: There's not going to be people manually counting more than 8 million ballots in Florida.

GREENE: That would take forever.

PARKS: It would take absolutely forever. This process is actually expected to take a shorter amount of time than the machine recount process did. Basically, each county has now sorted out the ballots that their scanners were unable to read. These are ballots that were either left blank. They had stray markings that weren't clear. Or a voter voted for maybe more than one candidate. And so now people - and not machines - are going to be looking at just those ballots to try and determine if there was voter intent. Now, this sounds super subjective...


PARKS: ...But we should say that Florida law has, like, a 15-page document laying out a bunch of possible markings and how each individual marking should be judged.

GREENE: Important because if there is any subjectivity - I mean, you're talking about probably legal battles that could go on forever and all the politicizing.

PARKS: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

GREENE: Well, can you sort out the different races here? So, the hand - this manual recount is going, in theory, to help settle the Senate race. The governor's race - there's not going to be a recount, but you still have Andrew Gillum, who is challenging the results in court, right?

PARKS: Right. So we actually saw very little change when we got this second batch of unofficial results, compared to the results we got last weekend. Both candidates for Senate actually lost a few hundred votes in this total, but the tight margin between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson actually stayed the same. It's about 0.15 of a percentage point heading into this manual recount. The governor's race also did not move much. Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by about 0.41 percent. And we still have not actually seen Gillum concede again after he retracted his election night concession, even though the margin in that race is not big enough to actually trigger this manual hand recount.

GREENE: But where are the legal challenges going? Where are the legal cases going?

PARKS: Well, there's still quite a few lawsuits circling this case. And we expect more to be filed still. I spent much of yesterday in U.S. District Judge Mark Walker's courtroom. He was saying he had been working there on 3 1/2 hours' sleep. And he was planning on being there last night until midnight. And there's one ruling, specifically, we're really watching today. And that's where Democrats had asked for a deadline to extend the recount process because Palm Beach County was taking so long to complete it. But the judge said yesterday he really seemed unlikely to grant that extension because it now looks like Palm Beach is going to meet Sunday's unofficial or - excuse me - Sunday's official deadline for, at least, the Senate recount race. And then we also expect the judge to rule on a number of the other lawsuits at some point today, as well.

GREENE: I don't have to tell you this, Miles. You're not the first journalist to be in Florida covering an unresolved election that seems to be going on forever. I mean, this - I look back to 2000. Like, does Florida have some problem they need to fix here?

PARKS: I think if you talk to experts - I was talking to a lot of people who said, basically, Florida is under the microscope because they've just got these incredibly tight margins. But it's unclear that you wouldn't see these sorts of election problems if you looked this closely at other elections across the country. I think the tougher issue, when we look ahead to future elections for Florida, is not necessarily equipment-based. But the political rhetoric we've seen around this election from the candidates has really had an effect on confidence in the democracy. So I think, looking ahead, we're going to see - obviously, equipment's going to get fixed. But I'm curious to see how the political rhetoric changes and whether politicians are more eager to build up confidence in democracy, as opposed to tear it down.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Miles Parks. Thanks, Miles.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.