TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Florida’s protracted Senate election proceeded to a manual recount, the next phase in an increasingly bitter and litigious fight, while Republicans declared victory anew in the race for governor.
The state’s machine recount ended at 3 p.m. on Thursday with Republican Gov. Rick Scott leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by less than one-quarter of one percentage point, within the margin that legally triggers a manual recount.
Mr. Scott led Mr. Nelson by more than 56,000 votes on election night Nov. 6, but that lead had fallen to 12,603 on Thursday afternoon.
A couple of counties were unable to submit machine recounts. Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, blamed aging vote-tabulation equipment that malfunctioned because it had to be run 24 hours a day. She said work might have been completed given another three to four hours.
“Just like an old car, they overheated,” she said of the voting machines in federal court on Thursday.
The state didn’t accept Broward County’s machine-recount totals because they were submitted two minutes late, and instead reverted to the county’s previous unofficial tally.
A federal judge rejected a Democratic request for the state to extend the deadlines for both the manual and machine recounts, though the court did hold a hearing on Thursday on the possibility of extending the deadline in Palm Beach County.
County election officials across the state now have until Sunday to review overvotes and undervotes, ballots that a machine marked as having too many or too few selections in the race. Officials will seek to interpret the intent of the voters based on the markings they left on the ballots, a scenario that harks back to Florida’s 2000 presidential recount and its notorious hanging chads.
Mr. Nelson is pressing ahead with his fight on several fronts, including challenging the guidelines the state gives counties for determining a voter’s intent during a manual recount.
Meanwhile, the gubernatorial contest between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis won’t proceed to a manual recount, as the Thursday results showed Mr. DeSantis holding a secure lead of nearly 34,000 votes. Mr. DeSantis’s lead had held steady throughout the past week.
“I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” Mr. DeSantis said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said that he wouldn’t concede, though he had done so on election night. “As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted,” he said in a statement. “We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process.”
The manual recount will begin as Democrats and Republicans continue their legal jostling over the vote. Mr. Nelson’s campaign filed yet another lawsuit on Thursday in state court calling for a hand recount of all ballots in Palm Beach County.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that Floridians whose mail-in and provisional ballots were rejected over signature mismatches have until Saturday to attempt to verify their votes. Mr. Scott appealed that decision, and his appeal was rejected.
Corrections & Amplifications
Any Florida races that remain within one quarter of one percentage point after a Thursday deadline will proceed to a manual recount. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the margin. (Nov. 15, 2018)
—Alex Leary and Arian Campo-Flores contributed to this article.
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