U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson continued closing the gap overnight that separates him from Gov. Rick Scott in the race for U.S. Senate. Nelson began Thursday trailing Scott by less than 22,000 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast, a difference of 0.26 percent. Some counties are still counting votes, including the Democratic stronghold of Broward.
“I expect that is going to close even greater as the day progresses today. I would expect that we are going to be well under the 0.25 percent needed for a hand recount and I think that’s where we are headed,” said Marc Elias, a nationally known elections lawyer who has represented a number of high-profile Democrats in successful recount battles.
Elias has been brought in by the Nelson campaign to represent the incumbent in Florida’s U.S. Senate recount.
“I think it is fair to say right now that the results of the 2018 Senate election are unknown and you and election officials should treat it as such,” said Elias.
Elias bases his claims largely in part to what is happening in Broward County where they are still counting ballots and where there was a large undervote in the Senate race. An undervote is when the number of votes cast in a particular race is lower than vote totals in other races on the ballot. Elias says that could indicate a problem with the calibration of voting machine in Broward or possibly stray marks left on the ballot by voters that prevented machines from reading votes.
Elias says a hand recount needs to be conducted to determine the winner of the race.
He also points to 10,000 ballots that he says remain to be counted in Palm Beach County, another Democratic bastion.
“We believe at the end of this process that Sen. Nelson is going to be determined to be the winner and he’s going to return to the United States Senate,” Elias insisted during a Thursday morning conference call with reporters.
“I firmly believe that at the end of this process that Sen. Nelson is going to prevail,” Elias said.
The Scott campaign was critical of Nelson for bringing in an outside attorney to push for a recount.
“This morning, Bill Nelson is introducing the people of Florida to Marc Elias, a hired gun from Washington, D.C. who will try to win an election for Nelson that Nelson has already lost,” Scott’s campaign said in a news release Thursday morning. “It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken. Maybe next, he’ll start ranting that Russians stole the election from him.”
In Florida, a machine recount is triggered if the number of votes separating two candidates is 0.5 percent or less. If the difference is 0.25 percent or less, state law requires a hand recount, which would address the issues of the undervote that Elias believes will be a key in the recount.
The determination of whether a recount is required will come by noon Saturday when local election offices are due to submit their official voting numbers.