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Florida Election Officials Have Until Sunday To Turn In Final Tallies In Senate Race


It's another day of counting - actually, recounting - in Florida. Across the state, workers are counting ballots by hand in the U.S. Senate race where Republican challenger Rick Scott maintains a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. In Broward County this morning, local election workers went through a PowerPoint full of instructions on how to decipher ballots that have been remarked with crossed-out checkmarks, even written on by voters.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If the voter marks more choices than there are candidates, fills in two bubbles, that's an invalid vote. That's what they call an overvote.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Don Gonyea was there watching all of that, and now he is at another recount site in Palm Beach County. Hi, Don.


SHAPIRO: Yes. We just heard that Broward County official giving instructions on how to read ballots. What's happening in Palm Beach where you are now?

GONYEA: On one level, you know, watching this, it could be like a big potluck dinner for some charitable organization.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

GONYEA: In Broward this morning, it was this big, open space. And maybe instead of a school gymnasium, it's a warehouse here. There are these long rows of tables. On each one, there's a stack of white bins for the ballots to be sorted. And now they're going over the ballots that had some issue with them. Maybe, you know, a mark for a particular contest was unintelligible. Maybe more than one candidate was marked, as we just heard in that piece of tape. Maybe a name was crossed out and then a mark by the other name.

In each case, a determination has to be made, if possible, what the voter wanted. Ultimately some are adjudicated by the Board of Elections supervisors. There are these so-called overvotes, and there are these undervotes when no choice was made in any given race. And there were lots of those undervotes in the U.S. Senate race.

SHAPIRO: And some counties have already finished their hand recount, right?

GONYEA: That's right - in the Senate race. There are some other ballots and other races, you know, down ballot that are being looked at, but Broward has finished its count in the Senate race. It only actually took a few hours this morning. It was a remarkably fast - no result announced yet. They're still working on it here in Palm Beach County, where I am now. Other counties are maybe on a different pace. Their big room may look totally different from what I saw in Broward this morning, but ultimately the deadline is Sunday, noon.

SHAPIRO: And have the vote totals changed very much since this recounting started?

GONYEA: No. The answer to that is no. Like, take the Senate race. The Republican, Scott, was ahead after the first tally of the vote starting election night. His lead has been around 12,000. In the first recount that was completed yesterday, that was a machine recount. Each candidate actually lost votes, but Scott remains ahead of the incumbent Democrat, Nelson, by essentially the same amount, maybe even slightly more than he was. So that does look bad for those hoping for a Democratic comeback in that race.

SHAPIRO: OK, so that's the Senate race. Let's talk for a minute about the governor's race where Republican Ron DeSantis was ahead of Democrat Andrew Gillum by about four-tenths of a percentage point after the initial machine recount of all the ballots - not close enough to trigger a manual recount in that race, right?

GONYEA: That's right - even less suspense there. There were more than 30,000 votes separating DeSantis and Gillum after Election Day. That didn't really change after the first recount. So presumably DeSantis will be declared the winner when the election is certified. That's now set for Tuesday. But there is still a possibility that Gillum and the Democrats will go to court to try to delay that.

Though we did see as of yesterday - let's click over to the Senate race for a moment. Bill Nelson was the one - he's the Democrat, the incumbent launching new legal action in the Senate race while Gillum in the governor's race - again, the Democrat - was simply calling for all the votes to be counted. But he still has options.

SHAPIRO: Just in a couple of sentences, is there any chance this will all lead to some kind of reforms that will prevent this from happening again, Don?

GONYEA: You know, you can see the frustration on the part of elected officials here. And I was here for the recount back in 2000.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Right.

GONYEA: So you can see a lot of reporters going...


GONYEA: ...What's going on here as well. They made changes. There are no more hanging chads. They've made some some reforms, but this clearly shows that in a state that's a battleground where elections are going to be hotly contested and close, that they do still have work to do.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Don Gonyea, thank you so much.

GONYEA: All right, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.