ORLANDO, Fla. – With many polls showing Vice President Joe Biden holding a slight lead over President Donald Trump in Florida a little more than a week before Election Day, there remains a chance the state could once again be forced to recount votes in a close election to determine the victor.
“Voters can help us prevent a recount by getting out and voting in this election,” Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. “More people who vote helps our chances of having wider margins.”
Longtime Floridians recall those 19 days in 2000 when the fate of the presidential election hinged on Florida recounting ballots and trying to decipher the “hanging chads” that complicated Palm Beach County’s now-retired butterfly ballots.
Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision halting the recount, Al Gore conceded the election to George W. Bush with just 537 votes separating the two.
“Since the 2000 election, Florida has streamlined its process,” Cowles said. “And we proved it in 2018.”
That election year saw three statewide recounts in the races for U.S. senator, governor and state agriculture commissioner, along with another recount for an Orange County commission seat.
Under state law, machine recounts are triggered when the margin is less than or equal to one-half percent of total votes.
In the race for governor, Ron DeSantis ultimately beat Andrew Gillum by less than 34,000 votes.
Florida’s secretary of state ordered additional hand recounts in two other state races where the vote margin following the machine recount was less than one quarter of a percent.
Rick Scott prevailed in the U.S. senate race over incumbent Bill Nelson with about a 10,000 vote lead, while Nikki Fried defeated Matt Caldwell for agriculture commissioner by less than 7,000 votes.
Cowles conducted those recounts in 2018 within the state-mandated deadlines and indicated he’s ready should the need for recounts arise again this year.
“After the 2018 election, we said to the county commission, ‘We need more high-speed counters to help separate ballots in preparation for a recount,'” Cowles told News 6. “Those three machines are now helping us get through the vote-by-mail process.”