It’s the nightmare scenario nobody wants to discuss: an election night result for Florida governor that’s so close it demands a recount. “Oh, no, the R-word,” said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “It’s going to be a close one. We’re ready.” It’s Florida. Anything can happen. With polls showing Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a virtual deadlock, both sides are making plans in case of a stalemate next week. Republicans and Democrats would mobilize armies of lawyers in a frantic search for ballots, triggering memories of the agonizing and chaotic five-week Florida recount that followed the 2000 presidential election. “Expect the unexpected,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.
… A recount must be ordered by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee. The first step, a machine recount, is a retabulation of ballots using automated machines, essentially double-checking the totals. But if that closes the gap between the candidates to a quarter of a percentage point or less, a manual recount would take place of all undervotes and overvotes, if the number of votes in dispute is large enough to alter the result. “The pool of disputed ballots has to be greater than the difference,” said lawyer Mark Herron, who advises Democrats.
An undervote occurs when a voter casts no vote in a race, and an overvote occurs when a voter chooses more than one candidate. The number of those ballots has declined since Florida abandoned punch-card ballots and their hanging chads after the 2000 debacle and switched first to touch-screen machines and later to optical scan paper ballots. The latter change was ordered by Crist, then a Republican, soon after he took office in 2007.