Given the projections for a close presidential race, Florida election law could once again take center stage in the days leading up to and following the election. With that possibility in mind, I will summarize in a series several legal issues that may come into play in November. This fourth in the series will address ballot recounts.
Recounts of ballots are triggered in two instances:
(1) If the first ballot count reflects that a candidate was defeated or ballot measure approved or rejected by ½ of 1% or less of the votes cast, a machine recount of all ballots cast for the race or measure will occur. This recount need not occur if the losing candidate requests in writing that a recount not be made.
The tabulating machines must be tested before the recount begins. F.S. 102.141(7) .
(2) If the machine recount described in paragraph 1 shows that the candidate was defeated or ballot measure was approved or rejected by ¼ of 1% or less of the votes cast, a manual recount of the overvotes and undervotes cast for the race or measure will occur. A vote contained on a ballot initially identified as an overvote or undervote shall be counted if there is a clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice. This manual recount will occur unless the losing candidate requests in writing that a recount not be made or the number of overvotes and undervotes is fewer than the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the election.
“Overvote” means a voter has marked a vote for 2 or more persons for the same office or more than one answer to a ballot question, and the machine tabulator records no vote for the office or question. F.S. 97.021(24) .
“Undervote” means that the voter did not make any choice for an office or ballot question, and the machine tabulator records no vote for the office or question. F.S. 97.021(38) .