Because there may be several statewide recounts as a result of the 2018 Midterm Election, now is probably a good time to review how the Florida recount process works.
After all the ballots are initially counted, if the vote spread between two candidates is one half of one percent or less, then a machine (optical scanner) recount of all ballots occurs. F.S. 102.141(7). In addition to tallying all ballots, the machine recount also identifies those ballots that are overvotes (voter voted for both candidates) and undervotes (voter voted for neither candidate). The identification of overvotes and undervotes is by machine, not the naked eye.
If the machine recount shows that the spread between the candidates is one quarter of one percent or less, a manual recount only of the ballots identified by the machine as overvotes and undervotes occurs, unless: (1) the candidate who is behind requests that the recount not be made, or (2) the total number of overvotes or undervotes is fewer than the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the election. F.S. 102.166. For example, assume that after the machine recount the spread between the candidates is 10,000 votes, and that spread is one quarter of one percent or less of the votes cast for the office. Also assume the machine recount identified 5,000 ballots as overvotes or undervotes. Under this scenario the candidate who is ahead by 10,000 votes would be declared the winner, because a manual recount of the 5,000 overvotes and undervotes would not, as a matter of arithmetic, be sufficient to change the result of the election.
If the total number of overvotes and undervotes would be sufficient to change the result of the election, then a manual recount of only the overvote and undervote ballots would occur to determine if these ballots clearly indicate a vote for just one of the candidates. The interpretation of the voter’s mark or markings on the overvote/undervote ballot is governed by detailed standards promulgated by the Florida Division of Elections.