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Recount Looms In Florida Governor Race


Florida, Florida, Florida. The 2018 midterm election season rolls on, and Florida recounts loom in the race for governor, between the Democrat, Andrew Gillum, and Republican Ron DeSantis, a Senate seat, between the incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and the Republican and current governor, Rick Scott. Marc Caputo writes the Florida Playbook for Politico. Thanks so much for being with us.

MARC CAPUTO: Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

SIMON: Are there still hanging chads?

CAPUTO: No. We banned those in 2001 after the disastrous 2000 presidential recount. And fortunately for the state is - part of the reform packages passed after 2000 were a number of standards, methods and clear ways in which to perform recounts. And, lucky us, we now probably have three statewide recounts in Florida, as well as three state legislative seats - a record six in the state in one election.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Well, how close is the governor's race, Marc?

CAPUTO: The governor's race - I would like to use one of those old phrases, you know, the old cliche. It's about as tight as a tick in a rug or something. But it's not as tight as the Senate race. The governor's race is about 36,000 ballots almost on-the-nose apart - the margin. The - in the end, the margin is 0.44 percent. And it takes 0.5 percent - that is half a percent - to go to recount. So the governor's race in Florida's probably going to recount.

SIMON: And what about the Senate race?

CAPUTO: Now, the Senate race is a lot tighter and a little more controversial, actually, because of some potential ballot design problems. The Senate race in Florida is 0.18 percentage points margin - 14,848 ballots. And it takes 0.25 percent to go to a manual recount. Now, that's not an entire manual recount of all 8 million ballots - 8.2 million ballots.

What happens is they run the ballots through the machines. They tally them up. And then, all the ballots that don't record a vote because there's a, quote, "overvote" - that is, more than one candidate is selected - or an undervote - that is, no candidate is selected - are then manually reviewed.

And that gets me to the second thing that I was kind of mentioning.

SIMON: Yeah.

CAPUTO: It's a little more controversial in the Senate race because it looks like bad ballot design might've cost Bill Nelson mightily because Broward County...

SIMON: Yeah.

CAPUTO: ...Is a very Democratic county. And they had a tremendous number of undervotes - that is, no one voting in the Senate race - because it appears that a good number of people, perhaps as many as 20,000, might have missed the Senate race because it was in the lower left-hand corner right under the instructions. And if you look at the Senate race compared to all the other races, it got fewer votes in Broward County, even compared to...

SIMON: Yeah.

CAPUTO: ...Say, the state agriculture commissioner. It just doesn't make sense.

SIMON: Well, forgive my naivety. But don't all parties weigh in on ballot design? Or are those days - am I living in the age of Pollyanna aspirations?

CAPUTO: Well, they have - they do have the ability to at least protest. They have the ability to see it at the time. The ballot is sent out ahead of time to say, hey, here's what the ballot looks like. And the Senate campaign of Bill Nelson did not complain.

SIMON: President Trump has said there's evidence of election fraud. Is there evidence?

CAPUTO: So far, no. And, in fact, Governor Rick Scott, who's running for Senate against Bill Nelson, had given a rather extraordinary press conference. We've - I've lost track of days. It might've been either Wednesday or Thursday night.

SIMON: Yeah.

CAPUTO: Perhaps Thursday night. And he had also mentioned that there - Democrats were, quote, "trying to steal the election" and had sort of mentioned fraud and referred the matter onto the state's version of the FBI called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, known as the FDLE. Well, FDLE, the next day, said, hey, there's no allegation of fraud, that it - they don't even have a complaint.

So far, all of these folks are saying, on the Republican side, hey, there's fraud, it needs to be investigated, while the state investigative agency is like, we're here to investigate. Show us. And so far, there's nothing.

SIMON: With 20 seconds left, why does this happen a lot in Florida?

CAPUTO: Because that's just how we are. I think Tim Russert said Florida, Florida, Florida. Or some people call us Flori-duh (ph). And this is just part of the nature of living here and being a reporter in the Sunshine State.

SIMON: Well, it sounds like a lot of fun if you're a reporter. Marc Caputo of Politico, thanks so much for being with us.

CAPUTO: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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