Florida Senate Race Heads for Automatic Recount

Senator Bill Nelson speaks in Orlando, Fla., June 12, 2016 and Governor Rick Scott appears in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2017, respectively. (Kevin Kolczynski and Joshua Roberts/REUTERS)

The U.S. Senate in Florida race is likely headed for an automatic recount.

Republican Rick Scott, who resigned as governor to pursue the Senate seat, led incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by roughly 22,000 votes, or .26 percent of all votes cast, as of Thursday morning. Florida law requires a machine recount if the candidates finish within 0.5 percentage points of each other and a manual recount if the final margin is thinner than 0.25 points.

Nelson’s attorney, Marc Elias, said Thursday that the campaign is confident there are enough uncounted ballots to push the three-term incumbent over the top.

“I’m confident that Senator Nelson and the Democrats are going to do well in terms of vote share in the days to come, because when, at the end of the day, all eligible have their votes counted and counted accurately, the fundamental truth that we’re going to learn is that more voters voted for Senator Nelson than Governor Scott,” Elias told reporters on a conference call.

Elias, a veteran attorney with experience representing high-profile Democrats, pointed to voting irregularities in Broward County, a perennial Democratic stronghold, to justify his prediction. Elias claimed that there was an unusually high occurrence of “undervoting,” a phenomenon in which voters ignore one race on the ballot and, in this case, only cast votes in down-ballot races. While “undervoting,” is common in low-profile, local races, Elias said it is unusual for voters to cast votes in down-ballot races while ignoring the top of the ticket.

In a statement, Scott’s campaign criticized Nelson’s camp for refusing to concede the race, saying “it is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken.”

A recount also appears increasingly likely in the Florida gubernatorial race as Democrat Andrew Gillum has gained ground since Tuesday night, when he initially conceded. The Gillum campaign announced its support for a recount on Thursday.

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