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Door closing on Dorworth's reelection?

Down goes Dorworth? It's still too early to call, but the the expected future Speaker of the Florida House could be on the wrong way of one of the biggest political upsets in the Florida Legislature's history

Last night, we reported that Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, was 37 votes behind his Democratic challenger with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Now, we've learned from the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections that all absentee ballots have been counted and only an unknown number of provisional ballot remain. No military ballots will be counted in this race.

Are they enough to close the gap for Dorworth? There's no way to know, but the Supervisor's note shows that the door may be closing on Dorworth.

It would be a stunning political upset for a future speaker and incoming House Majority Leader to be ousted by a challenger who was outspent more than 5-to-1.

A veteran political reporter here tells us such a coup may have happened only once before in recent Florida politics.

In 1988, Sam Bell, D-Ormond Beach, lost a shocker to Dick Graham, a lawyer. Bell was in line to become Speaker in 1990. 

This morning's memo from Seminole elections supervisor, Mike Ertel, is below:

Here is where things stand in the Florida House District 29 race:

Total votes cast: 73,461.  Clelland-36,749   Dorworth-36,712

All absentees have been counted.  All early votes have been counted.  All Election Day ballots have been counted. 

 Overseas / Military ballots: the ones that come in after 7 p.m. on Election Day only have the federal races tabulated.  They will not affect this contest.

Provisional ballots: We have all of the provisional ballots on-site, and are currently working to see how many would be part of the HD29 contest.  We will not have that number until the end of the day.

Tomorrow, the canvassing board will meet at 2 p.m. to consider the provisional ballots cast for the entire county.  That meeting will last until at least 8 p.m., likely later.  After the meeting, we will then send our results to the Florida Department of State, who will then determine if a recount is ordered. 

Recount:  If the margin is within one-half of one percent, then a machine recount will be ordered, meaning we will run all the ballots back through the voting tabulation machines.  If after that, the margin is even closer, one-quarter of one percent, then a manual recount of the undervotes and overvotes will be conducted.  An undervote means: the voter has made no choice in that contest on their ballot.  An overvote means: the voter has marked a choice for more than one candidate in that contest on their ballot.

Timing of possible recount: While there is no recount ordered yet, the canvassing board has already advertised for a potential meeting to be held no earlier than 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

Canvassing Board members:  The canvassing board is set by Florida law.  The members are a county judge (Judge John Woodard), who is the chair of the board; the supervisor of elections (me); and the chair of the county commission.  Since the chair of the commission was on the ballot and none of the other county commissioners were able to serve, the chief judge of the circuit appointed the third member (Gerald Rutberg).  All members of the board have been on the canvassing board several times, and this board has conducted a recount in a previous election.  While the board prides itself on conducting ourselves in a purely nonpartisan fashion, we understand that you may want to know the party registration of each member.  Judge Woodard and myself are registered Republicans, while Rutberg is a registered Democrat.  The staff and pollworkers we will use for the recount will be of differing political affiliations, as well.

All meetings of the canvassing board are open to the public.

If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call or email.

Michael Ertel

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections