The races for governor, U.S. Senate and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services are close — even for Florida.
But are they so close that a recount is likely to change the result?
History says almost certainly not.
As of Saturday’s reporting deadline, about 12,500 votes separated Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the most contentious of the three upcoming recount fights. Former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race by about 34,000 votes. Democrat Nikki Fried held about a 5,300-vote lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in the agriculture commissioner race.
Florida law mandates that any election decided by 0.5 percent or less must go to a recount. All three races fit that bill.
Yet all three candidates who appeared to lead their races — Scott, DeSantis and Fried — have declared victory.
They may not be premature.
Math says Caldwell likely has the best chance to reverse his fortune in a recount. Plus he also might get a bump from the thousands of Republican-leaning overseas votes that have yet to be counted.
In the Senate race, Nelson’s lawyer, Marc Elias, said he also expects Nelson’s losing margin to be erased by a recount.
“If I had to place a bet, it is more likely than not Sen. Nelson will prevail in a recount,” Elias said on a conference call with reporters Friday.
But a recount that reverses an initial margin of more than a few hundred votes would be unprecedented in the recent history of American elections. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote, which advocates for electoral reforms that make it easier to vote, out of 4,687 statewide elections between 2000 and 2016, just 26 went to a recount. Of those 26, just three recounts wound up changing the initial result of the race: The 2004 Washington governor’s race, the 2006 Vermont state auditor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The average swing in those three elections after the recounts? About 311 votes.
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