Deadline Nears For Florida Recounts To Be Completed

Nov 15, 2018
Originally published on November 15, 2018 7:22 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Florida counties face a deadline this afternoon. By 3 o'clock, as mandated by law, every county is supposed to complete a recount in very close races, including for senator and governor. Last-minute lawsuits and a plea from Democratic Senator Bill Nelson have not changed that, nor has news that at least one big Florida county is unlikely to make the deadline. NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid is in that county - Palm Beach County. Hey there, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

INSKEEP: So I'm just looking at a map here. Palm Beach County right next to Broward County - it's South Florida. It's outside of Miami - beautiful beaches and so forth. But what's gone wrong?

KHALID: Well, so far, at this point, they just have not been able to - it looks like - meet the deadline. It would really be a miracle at this point if they're able to do this. And part of this is that they have these machines that are older, and so they can only recount individually, one race at a time. So they got to run the governors' - the Senate race first, then they're going to run the governors' race. So Susan Bucher, who's the elections supervisor, has really said that she's in prayer mode that they'll actually finish this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSAN BUCHER: I have to say that I'm working as hard as I can, and I can't give anymore. You know what? This is our democracy, and I am here to count every vote. And I will take the time that's required. And you can see - I haven't been home for three days.

KHALID: You know, Steve, the thing is, there is this looming deadline, but for hours yesterday, there was just one machine running. And that's because on top of the fact that they have these older machines, they've also had tech difficulties with these machines. They overheated on Tuesday, and that meant that they had to recount 175,000 early vote ballots that they had already recounted. In a nutshell, though, if they're not able to meet the deadline, according to Florida law, the provisional results that they've already submitted to the state - those are the ones that are going to stand.

INSKEEP: OK. So that may be what we end up with in Palm Beach County, and we'll see. Other counties are turning in their recounted results. There's this 3 p.m. deadline. What happens after that?

KHALID: Well, if a race comes down to being within a quarter of a percent, then there will be a manual recount. And in the governor's race, this is likely not going to be what's hit, right? So the governor's race - we're likely to see some results after today that are more official. But in the Senate race, Republican Rick Scott leads Democrat Bill Nelson by about 12,500 votes, which translates to .15 percent.

INSKEEP: Wow.

KHALID: So in a race like that, we're going to have a manual recount, most likely. It will not be all of the ballots. It's just going to be those people who had either chosen multiple candidates or who had not chosen a candidate at all. The official returns are then due by noon on Sunday.

And I do want to say one quick thing, though, about a last minute judge's ruling that we saw this morning. He ruled in favor of a challenge by Bill Nelson to give voters until Saturday to correct any issues with a mismatched signature. This decision is going to affect only Floridians who cast their ballots by mail or voted provisionally. So it's limited - you know, 4,000-plus people. It's a pretty narrow decision, but that's where things stand. That is the timeline, assuming there are no more rulings from the judge today...

INSKEEP: OK.

KHALID: ...that could further delay the deadlines.

INSKEEP: Asma, very briefly, what are you hearing from Floridians about all of this?

KHALID: Yes, I have been. And really, Steve, I mean, locals tell me that they are embarrassed and frustrated. One Republican woman told me that they feel like they look like fools to the rest of the country - that people don't seem to understand really why this is happening. They feel like it makes their county look suspicious.

And what I will say, Steve, is this frustration feels fairly bipartisan. And a big part of this problem, you know, people are saying, is the technology - these outdated machines. The county - Palm Beach County - is planning on getting more modern machines by 2020. But overall, people want to feel like this is going to work.

INSKEEP: NPR's Asma Khalid in Palm Beach County, Fla. Asma, thanks.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.