Here we go again.
Back in 2000, the state of Florida was in a virtual deadlock between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Florida has the nation’s eye once again, as the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the Sunshine State is too close to call. If it stays like this, the election process could drag on for a while, because Florida state law calls for an automatic machine recount when an election is particularly close.
Florida Statute Title IX Section 102.141(7) says:
If the unofficial returns reflect that a candidate for any office was defeated or eliminated by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for such office … a recount shall be ordered of the votes cast with respect to such office or measure. The Secretary of State is responsible for ordering recounts in federal, state, and multicounty races.”
So should Trump and Clinton finish within 0.5% of each other in Florida, there would be an automatic machine recount. It’s still early, but we wanted to keep you informed on what could happen.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it happened in the Bush/Gore election. However, back then, Florida law also allowed Gore to request a manual recount in whatever counties he wanted instead of one done by machine. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision the landmark Bush v. Gore that this process was unconstitutional because it treated counties differently, and put an end to the recount. With the machine recount showing that Bush was ahead by a mere 327 votes, he ended up winning Florida — and as a result — the presidency.
Following the 2000 election and its trouble stemming from hanging chads and butterfly ballots, Congress passed the 2002 Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”).
Among other things, HAVA eliminated punch-card voting, and appropriated federal funds to the states for the purpose of updating their voting equipment. Lots of states (including Florida) used those funds to buy new voting machines; now, those machines are over a decade old – a reality that concerns many who question the reliability of the results collected by those machine.
According to Ballotopedia, the State of Florida uses two kinds of voting machines: 1) optical scan machines (in which a paper ballot is scanned, and then kept as back-up data; and 2) direct recording electronic machines (which only back up electronically). Should Florida’s election come down to the necessary .5% margin, the recount arguments may differ from those back in 2000, but they may be dramatic nonetheless.
Time will tell if a recount is necessary for Trump and Clinton.
We will update this article as we get more information.