What comes next if the Secretary of State orders a ballot recount?

Process will extend at least longer than another week

By Anna Johnson - Digital Journalist
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

UPDATE: The Florida secretary of state has ordered a machine recount for the U.S. Senate race, the governor race and the agriculture commissioner race. Original story below.

The prospect of a Florida ballot recount is at the forefront of the minds of both politicians and Floridians alike -- the term "Florida recount" was the 11th most-searched on Google in the U.S. on Nov. 7, with more than 100,000 searches.

Election Day results have left at least two Florida races too close to call. Both Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott have weighed in on their race for the U.S. Senate seat Nelson currently holds. Both Nelson and Scott have filed lawsuits -- Scott is suing a county supervisor of elections over turning in disputed voting records and Nelson is suing the Secretary of State over the validation of vote-by-mail ballots.

The first batch of unofficial ballot returns is due Saturday. If those returns show the Senate race between Scott and Nelson within one-half of a percentage point of each other, the Secretary of State will order a mandatory machine recount, in which ballots are re-fed through each precinct's tally machines. That recount principle applies to any race in which the two candidates are within that half percentage point range.

If that recount in ordered, it could lead to a hand recount days later. During a hand recount, ballots with either overvotes or undervotes from the machine recount will be manually counted by humans. An overvote is defined as when a voter selected more choices than allowable for the recounted race. An undervote is the same, but with fewer or no options selected in the recounted race.

After that potential second recount, results still have to be certified by Gov. Scott. The entire process will extend longer than another week, at the minimum.

See below an official timeline of information from the Florida Secretary of State of what could happen, should one or more recounts occur.

Nov. 10: The first unofficial vote returns from every Florida county are due by noon. The Secretary of State will then determine if the received votes for federal, state or multi-county races place two candidates within a one-half of a percentage point difference. If so, this will mandate a machine recount.

Nov. 15: The results from the machine recount constitute the second unofficial returns, which are due at 3 p.m. If those returns show a federal, state or multi-county race with a difference of one-fourth of a percentage point between candidates, a manual recount will be ordered. 

Nov. 16: Ballots from overseas military members and civilians must be received. They will be counted as long as they are postmarked no later than Nov. 6.

Nov. 18: Official returns are due at noon. These are the returns that will provide definitive results in all races.

Nov. 20: The Elections Canvassing Commission will meet at 9 a.m. to certify the official returns. This commission consists of the governor and two state of Florida cabinet members chosen by the governor.

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