Orange County election officials prepare for manual recount in major races

Manual recount set to begin at 8 a.m. Friday, end by noon Sunday

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Where machines were just running hours ago, tables now stand inside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Training Room 1, ready to begin a manual recount in Florida's U.S. Senate and Commissioner of Agriculture races.

The directive from Secretary of State Ken Detzner came down just before 5 p.m. Thursday, as the Orange County's canvassing board was meeting. 

A manual recount is ordered by Florida law if the margin between the candidates is less than .25 percent. 

[Recount updates: 2nd recount ordered for U.S. Senate, agriculture races | Recount: Will my vote count?]

"The goal is for the early evening, we will have the overvotes and undervotes for the Senate race separated so tomorrow when the manual recount starts, we will start with the U.S. Senate," Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. 

An overvote takes place when a voter marks two names in the same race. Undervotes are when a voter doesn't mark either. 

"An overvote is when a voter filled in two ovals," Cowles said. "Undervote, they didn't fill any oval, but were creative and put a circle, or a check mark where they say they want this one."

That's when it will be up to the canvassing boards to determine voter intent. Cowles said in Orange County there are about 260 overvotes in the U.S. Senate race, and a little more than 15,000 for the Commissioner of Agriculture race. 

Orange County will spend Thursday evening sorting out the over and undervotes to be ready for the official manual recount at 8 a.m. Friday morning. The tables are set where a representative with each candidate can sit and watch each vote be evaluated. 

Thursday afternoon, after the deadline for the statewide machine recount, Democrat Nikki Fried appeared to have the lead over Republican Matt Caldwell with 4,029,973 votes, or 50.03 percent of the vote. Caldwell had 4,024,666 votes, or 49.97 percent of the vote.

In the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Scott was leading with 4,097,689 votes, or 50.07 percent of the total vote. Nelson had 4,085,086 votes, or 49.92 percent of the vote.

The close gubernatorial race between Republican candidate Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum was not ordered to undergo a manual recount. Unofficial results posted on the Florida secretary of state's website show that DeSantis is virtually assured of winning the nationally watched race over Gillum, according to the Associated Press. The machine recount finished Thursday showed Gillum without enough votes to force a manual recount.

All 67 county canvassing boards have to have their final results, including from the manual recount, in by Sunday for certification. 

The results of the manual recount will be reflected in the official returns due to the Department of State no later than noon Sunday.

Florida’s timeline for the reporting and certification of election results -- which includes the process for possible recounts for any races on the ballot -- is available in detail on the Division of Elections website.

Cowles said Orange County will have the recount completed in time for Sunday's deadline.

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