Florida’s hand recount kicked into gear Friday with grim news for Sen. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat who trails in the vote tally but who was hoping enough new valid ballots would be discovered to deliver victory.
In Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, Mr. Nelson gained only 181 votes, according to the county’s election supervisor’s office, a paltry sum given the nearly 13,000 deficit he faced against GOP Gov. Rick Scott following the mandated machine recount that concluded Thursday.
Reports from the Democratic stronghold of Broward County also indicated Mr. Nelson made up little ground, and a court decision late Friday went against Mr. Nelson’s legal team’s hopes of altering Florida law governing absentee ballots.
Observers in Broward County, where Mr. Nelson hoped to make up most of his roughly 13,000-vote deficit to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, said election officials whipped through piles of ballots and immediately ruled them out.
That doesn’t bode well for Mr. Nelson, according to reporters watching the pace of counting.
“The hand recount in Broward is over for the Senate race. It was a blur it went so fast. Looks like Nelson didn’t come close to making up the ground he needs,” Pema Levy, a reporter for Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, said on Twitter after getting up at 4:30 a.m. to be in place to watch the count.
Nevertheless, the Nelson campaign showed no signs of retreating, continuing to send fundraising e-mails on behalf of his ‘Emergency Recount Fund.’
“With our race too close to call, we’re in a recount – and we need to deploy major resources to ensure every single ballot is counted,” read one late Friday afternoon.
Mr. Scott has repeatedly claimed victory in the race, and his campaign was still confident Friday.
“It seems like the only person who isn’t aware that it’s time for Bill Nelson to move on is Bill Nelson himself,” his campaign said in an email to reporters.
Yet a spokesman with Scott for Florida, Chris Hartline, did manage a magnanimous note later, crediting Mr. Nelson for his “decades of service” and blaming “D.C. lawyers” he said sought to enrich themselves and alter the electoral legal landscape ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
A machine recount was done earlier this week and increased Mr. Scott’s lead by hundreds of votes.
The margin, though, was still close enough to trigger a recount by hand which must be completed by Sunday.
Mr. Nelson was hoping the hand recount would find ballots where voters appeared to have backed Mr. Nelson but that the machines missed.
In particular, they hoped what Broward County, which has been plagued with issues since Election Day, would find enough in what county officials said were more than 30,000 “undervotes.” Marc Elias, Mr. Nelson’s lead recount attorney, predicted Thursday evening that the senator would end up on top.
“The hand recount itself may very well reverse it entirely,” he said.
But officials in Broward conducted their manual recount with unexpected alacrity, finishing by lunchtime. Their unofficial recount results have not yet been provided.
The results in the race won’t be official until they are certified by the secretary of state, a formality expected to come Nov. 20.
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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