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Recounts ordered in Florida elections for senator, governor

By Allen Cone
Recounts ordered in Florida elections for senator, governor
Supporters of Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson cheer after early results are posted at a watch party in Orlando on Tuesday. As the night went on, Nelson lost his lead to Rick Scott and Republican Ron DeSantis overcame Andrew Gillum. Both races are headed to a machine recount. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Florida's secretary of state on Saturday officially ordered machine recounts in three statewide elections -- U.S. senator, governor and agriculture commissioner -- after receiving unofficial election results from all 67 counties.

All three races were within a half-percentage point, triggering the machine recount, according to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. County election officials will feed ballots into machines and report the results by 3 p.m. Thursday. If the results are within a quarter-percentage-point margin or less, there will be a hand recount with results due by noon Nov. 18.

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The Senate race is within .15 -- with Gov. Rick Scott leading incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast -- 4,098,107 to 4,085.545 -- in Tuesday's election.

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"This process is about one thing: making sure every legal ballot is counted and protecting the right of every Floridian to participate in our democracy," Nelson said in a statement. "Since Tuesday, the gap has shrunk from roughly 60,000 votes to about 12,500. ... We have every expectation the recount will be full and fair and will continue taking action to ensure every vote is counted without interference or efforts to undermine the democratic process. We believe when every legal ballot is counted we'll win this election."

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Nelson didn't concede Tuesday night but Scott declared victory 4 1/2 hours after polls closed at 7 p.m.

And he reaffirmed it Saturday after the results were finalized.

"The people of Florida have spoken and I am so honored to have won a close but decisive victory," Scott posted on Twitter. "I will fight for Florida every day as your next U.S. Senator. It's time Senator Nelson accepts these results and allows the state of Florida to move forward to a better future."

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In the race for governor, the margin is less than 34,000 votes or .41. Republican Ron DeSantis, who resigned as a member of the U.S. House to run for governor, has 4,075,879 votes to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's 4,042,195.

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On Tuesday night, Gillum had told his supporters in Tallahassee, "We recognize that we didn't win this tonight." But on Saturday afternoon, he said: "I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call we count every single vote."

DeSantis, who named his transition team one day after the election, released a statement on video.

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"At noon, today, Supervisors of Elections from across the state submitted their election returns to the Secretary of State," he said. Those results are clear and unambiguous, just as they were on Election Night, and I am honored by the trust that Floridians have placed in me to serve as your next governor. I want to express my appreciation to the supervisors, the canvassing boards and the staffs for working hard to ensure that all lawful votes are counted in this election.

For agriculture commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried leads Matt Caldwell by only 4,674 votes, a 0.06-point margin that will also trigger a hand recount.

"I am proud, humbled, and honored to be elected the first female Commissioner of Agriculture in this state," said Fried, an attorney. "One reason why I ran was to show girls like my nine-year-old niece that there are no barriers they cannot break -- and nothing they cannot do."

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On Tuesday night, Caldwell, a Republican in the state House, had the lead.

Before the recount was announced, Caldwell said in a statment: "We will fight to ensure this election is accurate and fair. The people of Florida deserve nothing else."

Since Tuesday night, the results in the three races had tightened as votes from two South Florida counties were added to the totals: Broward and Palm Beach. Those two counties were at the forefront of vote-counting in the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, ultimately decided in favor of Bush by 537 votes. Like in 2000, both sides have sought relief from the courts.

Republican officials, including Scott and Florida Sen. Rubio, have alleged wrongdoing. Rubio has criticized Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes in several tweets since Thursday, including one that said, "A U.S. Senate seat & a statewide cabinet officer are now potentially in the hands of an elections supervisor with a history of incompetence & of blatant violations of state & federal laws."

On Thursday, Scott accused "left-wing activists in Broward County" of trying to steal the election for Nelson. And in a series of tweets on Friday, President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of attempting "Election Theft in Broward and Palm Beach Counties."

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On Saturday, Trump posted: "Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!"

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday it was told by the Department of State, which is run by a Republican Scott appointee, that they had received "no allegation of criminal activity." On Saturday morning, Scott said he was "encouraging every Florida Sheriff to watch for any violations and take appropriate action."

On Saturday night, Scott announced he has secured 7,500 volinteers to monitor the recount process "and ensuring election officials are following the law." He said they will report any issues regarding machine setup and testing, ballot storage and transportation."

On Saturday, Scott posted on Twitter: "More than an hour past the noon deadline, the Broward County Canvassing Board continued to count ballots, violating state law. Senator Nelson has no objection to this illegal activity. This shows Nelson's true colors. No law is above him when his job is at stake."

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