TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — All eyes will be on the battleground state of Florida on election night – a state that’s no stranger to complex elections.
The hard-fought presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 came down to Florida. After the hotly-contested recount between the two candidates, the rules in the Sunshine State changed.
So could history repeat itself in Florida this year and, if it does, what would a recount look like?
Will mail ballot signature problems be the new hanging chads?
The coronavirus pandemic pushed vote-by-mail participation to unprecedented levels this year and, as of last week, more than 30,000 mail ballots had already been flagged for signature problems. Those votes could be thrown out if not fixed in the next few days.
Election officials tell us when a ballot is flagged for a bad signature, it’s because it’s vastly different from what they have on file. If there’s something wrong with your ballot, you will be notified. To fix it, voters have until two days after Election Day to sign an affidavit and provide identification.
What would trigger a recount?
The process of a recount is set off when a race is extremely close. But election officials say it doesn’t mean that something went wrong. They tell us they’re used to recounts and are always prepared for them.
Under Florida law, if a race is within a 0.5 percent margin or less, the secretary of state will order a machine recount for all 67 counties. Elections staff would put every single ballot – including mail, early voting and election day ballots – through high-speed scanners.
This year, the second set of results would be due nine days after the election on Nov. 12.
But what if the race between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump ends up being super close with a margin of 0.25 percent or less? At that point, election officials say the state pushes the order to everybody to conduct a manual recount.
That means certain potentially problematic ballots would be examined by elections staff. For example, if the scanner detects what’s called an overvote, two circles filled out, or an undervote, no circles filled out, those ballots would be checked manually with witnesses from both parties present.
This year, the final results of a manual recount would be due by Nov. 15 at 5 p.m., 12 days after the election.
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