Will There Be A Florida Recount? It's Happened Before In A Tight Race

Over the past few weeks, the very tight presidential race in the Florida has called into question whether or not there exists a possibility for a recount in the Sunshine State. A recount in Florida is certainly a possibility, considering the closeness of the race in the swing state as well as Florida's strict recount election laws.

The state of Florida actually has very explicit election laws regarding recounts. Chapter 102 of Florida's 2012 Election Statutes states that a recount is automatically initiated in the case of a close vote margin, which it defines as a candidate winning 0.5% or less of the total votes cast in the state. The Florida Secretary of State is responsible ordering the recount in federal elections, as well as in state and multi-county elections.

If a recount does occur, there is a very specific process by which ballots are retabultated. According to the non-profit Citizens for Eleciton Integrity, first, any paper ballots that were used during the election are reticulated using automatic tabulation equipment. If this reticulation shows that the close vote margin is at 0.25% or less, then a manual recount for the ballots sorted by the automatic tabulation machine occurs. However, this recount only occurs "for those ballots containing undervotes or overvotes, and is mandated only if the collective total of undervotes and overvotes is enough to alter the result of the election." For votes initially cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs), most of which, in Florida, do not have paper trails, the only way to reticulate is to do an electronic review of initial returns, which also occurs during the recount process.


As many people know, Florida has a very unique history with presidential election recounts. In 2000, the state automatically initiated a recount in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, a complicated process which took weeks and eventually ended up being halted by the United States Supreme Court in December 2000, partially due to inconsistencies in recounting procedures throughout the state. When the Supreme Court ended the recount, Bush led Gore by 537 votes and Florida's electoral votes went to Bush, who won the election.

As the 2000 election demonstrated, a few hundred votes in a close state can legitimately make the difference in determining who wins the presidency — especially if winning Florida is central to a candidate having enough overall electoral votes to become president. A Florida recount is certainly within the realm of possibility for the 2016 election and, if the state is central enough to the overall electoral outcome, it could have the power to delay the outcome of the election for weeks to come.