Florida’s Senate race appears headed for a recount, and the lead lawyer representing Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign claims he’s “confident” the results will end with a Democratic victory over Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
“I firmly believe that at the end of this process Senator Nelson is going to prevail,” Perkins Coie partner Marc Elias told reporters on a Thursday call.
Elias, a Democratic superlawyer who chairs the firm’s political law practice, was retained by the Nelson campaign Wednesday after election night ended with the race too close to call.
Under Florida state law, a machine recount is automatically triggered if the two candidates are separated by a margin of 0.5 percent of the vote or less after all the counties submit their totals. A hand recount is triggered if the margin is .25 percent or less.
Elias expects both will happen, with the first kicking off after the noon deadline Saturday for all of the counties to turn over their final canvass results.
Nelson’s share of the vote has continued to climb since Tuesday night, which ended with the two candidates 57,000 votes apart out of over 8.1 million ballots cast. Scott now leads by just 21,986 votes, of .3 percent of the total share, and ballots are still being counted in Democratic-leaning Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Scott’s campaign has dismissed talk of a recount as “a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career,” officially declaring victory on Wednesday night.
Florida Republican Party chair Blaise Ingoglia said the results would end up the same after any mandated recount.
“There are simply not enough ballots on the there to change the election,” Ingoglia told CNN Thursday. “The margin may change by a couple thousand, but it’s not going to change the outcome of the election. Rick Scott will be the next U.S. Senator from the state of Florida.”
Elias, who has worked on other successful recount efforts, told reporters that he has in the past had to level with candidates in close races who just didn’t have the votes to win a recount.
“That was not the conversation I had with Senator Nelson,” Elias said.
“My predictions come true with a remarkable degree of accuracy on these things,” he added.
Elias pointed to several areas where the campaign can pick up votes. Some 10,000 votes are left to be counted in Palm Beach County, and Broward County is still tallying up votes as well.
Broward also experienced an “unusual undervote pattern,” Elias said.
Data on the county board of elections site shows that more votes were cast for down-ballot offices like governor, attorney general and even chief financial officer than the top-of-the-ticket Senate race.
Elias said that he was “pretty confident” this resulted from a calibration or scanning issue that didn’t read markings on this particular part of the ballot.
Reports that the ballot design, which had the Senate race buried on the lower left corner, threw off some voters would not “cause an undervote of the magnitude we’re seeing,” Elias said.
The campaign is also ensuring that county election supervisors are doing their due diligence to check signatures on ballots to make sure they’re counted, reviewing rejected mail ballots in Miami-Dade County, and issuing open records requests in all 67 Florida counties.
Vote totals are so close in the Senate race that they’ve prompted Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum to reverse course. After conceding the race on election night, Gillum on Thursday released a statement saying he, too, is preparing for a possible recount if the final outcome merits it.
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